Someone said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” They said a mouthful, didn’t they? All you have to do is think about selfies. We take them until we finally have one that reflects the way we like to think we look (conveniently forgetting that it took us 67 tries to achieve this “look”). The reality is that we also look like those other 66 pictures. Until we’re willing to embrace that, we are seeing things as we are rather than the way they are. And let’s face it—this is the “easier” way to look at things. Truth challenges us to cast aside our comfortable self-illusions in order to embrace realities that are often less flattering and more demanding.
John never tires of telling us (or showing us) in his gospel that Jesus doesn’t simply know the truth—He is the truth. That’s an important distinction because we don’t usually think of truth in those terms. We have a tendency to compartmentalize it. We speak of learning, believing or knowing the truth. We talk of educating people in the truth or raising their awareness relative to it. Why? Because we usually confine truth to the intellectual dimension. John would have us to see that truth is much more than an answer to be known, it’s a relationship to be developed. Consequently, knowing the truth is more than receiving certain information—it ultimately involves transformation into the image of Christ.
This is brought out in Jesus’ statement that, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (7:17). According to Him, learning the truth is as much about submitting our will as it is educating our intellect. Or, to say it another way, if we’ve embraced a certain understanding but haven’t become like Him by adopting the behavior that goes with it—we really haven’t learned anything. That’s why when Jesus commissions His apostles He instructs them to make disciples through baptizing people and instructing them “to obey everything I commanded you,”(Matthew 28:19-20). His standard involves knowing and doing because truth is not only informative, it’s transformative. Truth only sets us free when it results in us practicing it and thereby becoming like Jesus (see John 8:31-32, 13:17).
Truth is to be thought of in holistic, personal terms. For the disciple, truth is not some abstract, independent set of principles—it is Jesus in all of His glory (14:6). We grow in the kingdom of God not as we learn more but as we allow the Spirit to shape our lives to be more like our Master.
To understand this will help us to see things as they are rather than as we are.