Power, Truth, and Beauty
Whether in conversations with Christians, skeptics, or firm-believers of other religions, the issue of truth is often in the forefront of my mind. As I engage with questioners who want to know how I can trust the Bible, or how anyone could believe the resurrection was an actual event, or how on earth a man who lived two millennia ago could have anything to do with us today, the question that comes to mind as I listen is similar to theirs, yet asked with the wonder of a witness: Is it true? Can it be true that God has come so near, that Christ is so loving, that God reigns and has opened wide the doors to the kingdom? Can it be true that the power of the gospel is such that I can be called a witness? It is an inquiry that orients me as I engage in conversations that otherwise reduce matters of faith and religion to personal preference.
Is it true? In fact, even Jesus in his conversation with Pilate couched his identity in the authority of truth: "You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me" (John 18:37). In our current religious context, where preference and choice are often played as trump cards, reintroducing truth as a category is often necessary.
And yet, communicating the gospel isn't only about communicating the truth. This is not to say, of course, that the gospel is untrue or that truth is not one of the most significant factors in my decision to follow Christ. Far from this, the truth of the gospel is indeed one of the reasons why I believe it is good news. But it is Christ himself who is in fact the news! Whether the apostle Paul was wearing the hat of preacher, prisoner, nurse, or mentor, the content of his message was always Christ; he knew that even truth can be made an idol if lifted above Christ himself. In fact, the most distinctive quality of Paul's ministry is that he believed himself a witness standing at the scene of God's kingdom testifying to all that he saw—not a detective or prosecutor or whistle-blower trying to expose the truth at all costs.
Moreover, while truth is a category that may need to be reintroduced in many of our conversations at some point, it is not always a category that makes a difference. There are more than a few places in the gospel where people in the crowd see that Jesus is speaking the truth and yet still reject him. Truth is not what brings about a response to the gospel; it is the Spirit that brings people to respond. And in fact, this characteristic of the good news makes it all the more intensely good. The gospel is good news for reasons far beyond the fact that it is true. It comes in the person of Christ, with a rush of God's power, and the promise of God's Spirit.
This reality was brought home for me by two of my professors who were life-long missionaries. They spoke repeatedly about the power of God as the heart of the good news to people who had never heard. Before this I had rarely, if ever, considered the gospel as news that ushers into our lives a powerful God. But through them I was reminded in story after story that the good news is even better news than I had commonly come to describe and that the power of God to change the world is indeed impressive news. It is certainly true that Christ has come among us. But isn't this also a powerful reality? A beautiful reality? In the words of the apostle, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power."(1) Like Paul, the Christian as living witness is moved to tell the truth about his or her encounters with a powerful God and the Son who announces this in-breaking of God's power among us. The man born of a virgin from Nazareth was indeed one who communicated the good news with words, with his presence, with stories, with the miraculous, with a cup of cold water, and with the immense power of a life-changing message. Is this not even better news than we first imagined?
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) 1 Corinthians 4:20.