Oxford Dictionary announced “post-truth” as their word of the year for 2016.
They defined it as “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.'”
Oxford added, “Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant.'”
Apparently it’s official: We live in an age where we are being convinced that truth has become unimportant and irrelevant.
We all fall victim to truth as subjective to our own emotions and personal beliefs. For the purposes of this article, I refer to the way we sort how we live out life as followers of Jesus.
We tend to pick and choose. We live life at the smorgasbord of Jesus. We choose what we like and leave behind what we don’t, are unsure of or are just plain uncomfortable with.
Take evangelism, for instance. We are great at self-exempting ourselves from this. Frankly, we are quite afraid of that word.
For many, if not most of us, we self-exempt because we see sharing Jesus as something someone else does. Yet Jesus invites us to a “come and see,” “go and tell” way of life as we go in our ordinary lives.
You might be thinking, “Yes, but there is that passage about evangelism being an appointed gift.” Go ahead. I will challenge you on that passage, though. Go back and read it again and see if it is actually an exemption passage.
There was a roundtable discussion at a pastor’s conference I attended in 2016 focused on reimagining evangelism. We asked ourselves: Is evangelism a mission impossible? Can we re-engage in it as believers and followers of Jesus?
In light of living in an age of post-truth, can we become truth-tellers? Do we dare? Or are we so paralyzed that truth-telling will bring us scorn and rejection that we prefer to stay silent amid the humbug?
Our society can try to convince us all we want that truth is unimportant, but the massive publishing dollars procured from “meaning of life” books reveal the real truth about that.
Humans are seekers of truth. And in agreement with the definition, we do often find truth through emotion and personal belief.
So, though our culture can shout “post-truth,” it is in how truth-telling is defined that gives us an entry point to share this Jesus, whose birth we celebrated a few months ago.
When I look at how Jesus went and truth-told, he did so with fact: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing; the kingdom of God is among you; I will be with you always; Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
God has fulfilled his promise to Israel. King Jesus is come to establish “on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is where what is wrong is made right again.
These were some of the objective facts he presented.
Jesus also told the truth through people’s emotions and personal beliefs. He “gospeled” people where they were.
To those struggling with guilt, he offered forgiveness. To those marginalized, he placed them in the front of the line and in places of honor.
To those who were sick, he offered compassion and healing. To those who were deemed less valued, he publicly spoke to, recognized and preferred them. To those lost in their own personal confusion, he brought clarity.
He truth-told into each one’s story at the place of entry that would speak the strongest to them.
This was the Jesus way of evangelism. He really didn’t give a four-step formula on how to be saved, but rather stepped into the places of people’s stories where they were at and revealed God already at work in the midst of their story. Evangelism is really just that.
So, can we expose the rhetoric of our world that tries to fool us into even questioning our own truth? Can we merely take the time to be truth-tellers of this great celebration?
Can we begin to discard the foolish deception that we “belong(ing) to a time in which the specified concept (of objective truth) has become unimportant or irrelevant”?
This is the beginning of re-imagining and re-engaging with the gospel we objectively lean into as our personal truth.
This is the good news that we share with all our deep convictions and emotions: Jesus is king in my life and the world as our prince of peace, bringing the deep “shalom” of God into all the places we live, work, play and pray in.
Shannon Youell is church planting coordinator at Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) and the British Columbia-Yukon regional church-planting director. A longer version of this article first appeared on the CBWC church-planting blog and is used with permission. You can follow CBWC on Twitter @TheCBWC.