By Amy Sondova In the classic movie A Few Good Men, Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson) so famously yells, “You can’t handle the truth!” Since the utterance of that line, it’s been used in spoofs, movie trivia, and everyday conversation. Everyone knows that line, even if they may not remember the movie. Ah, we do love our pop culture movie quotes–“You had me at ‘hello'”, “You’re everything I never knew I always wanted”, “Show me the money!”, pretty much all of Napoleon Dynamite. You get the picture.
“You can’t handle the truth” is one of those quotes that’s stuck with me, even before I watched A Few Good Men, probably because there’s so much truth in that statement. Human beings really do have a hard time looking truth in the face and accepting it. Sometimes it’s so much easier to believe the lies.
For example, I often hear others say that they appreciate when people are real and open with them. But if a person is actually real and open (not to excess, just enough vulnerability to make everyone uncomfortable), he or she is judged for whatever was confessed/shared. Truly, if a situation is too messy for someone else to fix/deal with, then he or she seems to abandon the relationship. So much for “appreciating openness.” Therefore, it seems easier to believe that your friend is OK with being dumped by her boyfriend because that is what she tells you. Your brother really isn’t getting drunk every night because he says he’s going to AA meetings. Your daughter isn’t cutting because you don’t see her wrists. The lies are much easier than the truth.
I wonder if human beings, due to the devastation of being fallen creatures, have not only turned away from God’s truth, but all truth. The Bible says that we exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and if God is the very definition of truth, could it be that we reject truth on principle? We easily reject Jesus who proclaimed, “I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life.” Truth is easy to reject, even if in doing so we lose our own souls.
Another famous statement I’ve always pondered was spoken by Pilate before he released the criminal Barrabas at the request of the Jews, he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” How did he say it? In anger? Was it a side utterance? Or was it more rhetorical? For whatever reason he spoke it, Pilate probably didn’t realize that people would be reading it thousands of years later in their Holy Scriptures. The irony of the question is intriguing–“What is truth?”. The Truth is standing right before Pilate, but he can’t see it, can’t accept it, and yet he knows it’s the Truth. Fear keeps him from accepting the truth. It’s almost like he just couldn’t handle the truth.
There are many truths that exist in our world, but the truest of these truths is found in God alone. He is the barometer for which we measure all truth. The Gospel is a hard teaching, hard to accept, hard to live, and even harder to understand. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. Truth doesn’t always make sense.
It’s difficult for me to understand a broken, bloodied Man dying on a tree for me and a Father who simply turns His face away from His suffering child. I rejoice in the resurrection of the Savior, but like to pretend Good Friday never happened. The Gospel is so much prettier when we wear our gold crosses (overlayed with rose gold flowers, of course) and sport our shiny fish symbols on our cars. I much prefer that gospel in some ways because it’s easier to accept than the truth. If I accept the truth of Jesus, the whole story, I actually have to do something with suffering. Not just going to Africa and building wells or fighting for social injustice, which are noble things to do, I have to do something with the neighbor who I hear crying at night in her apartment, with the kid at church who I know is addicted to pornography, with the friend who constantly calls me up to complain about her life. If I can’t handle God’s truth, how can I handle theirs, and more importantly, how can I point them to Truth?
It’s time we pulled off our masks and allowed those around us to pull off theirs. Masks are fun..for costume party, yet life is not a costume party (or it shouldn’t be). Seek truth even if you can’t handle it and don’t really know what is it. Truth wants to be discovered, contemplated, and considered. Inevitably, you will arrive at Him, the very definition of truth…and the truth will set you free.