Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no,’ no. (Matthew 5:37a, NKJV-Life Application Bible)
By Bishop Robert Hayes
Modern-day culture is doing irreparable damage to the truth, and that troubles me deeply. It seems harder and harder to determine what is truthful. From subjects merely trivial to those that are vital, society misleads, misdirects, and misinforms people about what is important, what is best, and what is true.
In commerce, every company claims its product is No. 1. That can’t be. Yet each laundry detergent is marketed as better than all others. The same declaration is made in sales campaigns for cars, toothpaste, hairspray, aspirin, cough drops, coffee, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and a host of other goods.
This may not bother you but, in my view, someone somewhere is not being honest. Truth has been lost in the effort to persuade people to buy whatever is being sold. I’ve discovered products fail to deliver on those No. 1 claims—but only after using them. Have you had a similar experience?
Concealing the truth is not limited to the business arena. It also can do a great deal of harm in matters of government and politics.
In these matters, truth often seems to take a back seat to party affiliation, ideology, and perspective. We laud freedom of speech and thought, yet truth is hidden beneath political spin; behind the masks of conservative or liberal; Democrat, Republican, or Independent.
It seems we have become a society of the ambiguous. Every fact, every detail has to have several sides. Every truth, every statistic has an asterisk or footnote attached.
My point: If disguising truth is damaging our society, think of the harm it causes to our religion, our faith.
People need answers that will lead them into a fuller, more complete life. They don’t need advice that can be stretched or interpreted multiple ways. They don’t need answers that are ambiguous, merely popular, or given simply to ease their minds.
In matters today that deal with God and faith, we need more than ever to be truthful, honest, and straightforward.
Sometimes truth is not popular. For some, it is a bitter pill. But when we study the life and teachings of Jesus, we gain new insight on the importance of telling it just like it is.
‘Verily, I tell you the truth …’
When I consider Jesus and the way he lived and taught, I feel good knowing he never led people astray. He never hid from them the truth about discipleship or salvation. He is our model for success in truth-telling.
When would-be disciples looked to Jesus for an easy way in the life of a follower, he did not conceal the truth from them. He described the requirements in simple, unambiguous terms: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up the cross, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23).
Throughout the Gospels, you will find Jesus’ teachings often begin with the phrases "Truly I tell you" or "Verily, I tell you the truth." His was a new way of teaching—honest, straightforward—and the people heard him gladly.
In one of my favorite stories (John 4), Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. It was in truth that he told her all about herself. The woman had been married five times, and the man she lived with at that time was not her husband.
Jesus did not try to embarrass her or make her feel guilty. With his keen mind, he had perceived the need to be truthful and forthright with her. In so doing, he freed her from guilt and shame. She ran to tell the villagers about the man who "told her all she had ever done" (John 4:19).
If you or I had just set out on a mission to save the world, I doubt we would have been so bold. If we needed followers to convert the world, we might not have mentioned the work would require the denial of self or cross-bearing.
But Jesus did not claim the way was easy or comfortable for those he called. He stated what was true, and he let people make up their own minds about discipleship.
I want to impress upon you the importance of being frank and honest in matters of faith. Church as we know it is dying because believers have failed to present the Gospel in an honest manner. People are falling away because they perceive the Christian life as an easy one and, when they find themselves overcome by difficulty, they lose heart.
Claims will forever be made in the secular world about who is No. 1 or what is the best product. On the truly important matters—life and faith—the truth as taught by Jesus is still the best, the most important, even today.
He’s still No. 1 to me.