Yesterday, President Trump ordered to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement for reasons such as securing America’s “sovereignty,” protecting the economy, and so that other nations will no longer “laugh” at the United States. As citizens, and as persons of faith, we are faced with a grotesque scandal as the truth about climate change continues to be darkened by lies. How are persons of faith to respond to this large scale shirking of truth? Christians attending to the lectionary are well aware by now that in the Gospel of John, truth is key. In fact, Jesus’ message is life via truth. Christians can find fortification in John’s gospel for “living the truth” in the face of structural darkness and deceit.
Not just life, but eternal life, is a concept that is central to John. However, eternal life has special meaning that is often hidden by the common assumption that John’s Jesus is referring to the afterlife. Scripture scholars like Marcus Borg explain that the phrase “eternal life” is better translated as “the life of the age to come.” Borg defines this concept as “the Jewish hope for the transformation of life on earth in the here and now.” The phrase, “eternal life” can be likened to the synoptics’ use of “kingdom of God.” Referencing John 17:3, Borg explains further: “To know God as known in Jesus is to enter ‘the life of the age to come’ now, in the present, this side of death.” (1)
So how do we promote life–eternal life–today, right here, on this planet? By living the truth. The Spirit of Truth points away from darkness and lies, toward light and truth. But humanity is blinded by darkness, John tells us, and sometimes even prefers it (3:19). Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus exemplifies truth in his actions of love by multiplying the loaves, defending the attacked woman, opening the eyes of he blind and most profoundly washing the feet of his disciples. His actions of love and words of truth ultimately lead to Pilate condemning Jesus (who is Truth) for opposing the darkness of structural deceit. After all, Jesus had already warned that the world order “cannot accept” the truth (14:16-17). But Jesus leaves his disciples with the Spirit of Truth, which in turn condemns the rulers of the world for perpetuating darkness and lies (16:8-11).
“Whoever lives the truth comes to the light,” John’s Jesus exclaims (3:19-21). The question becomes, how do we live the truth today, under the darkness of a president who denies the truth that our current economic system is destroying the planet at an accelerating rate? Jesus could not have been more clear when he linked discipleship to truth: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (8:31-32). Jesus further remarks that “whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him” (7:18). To be truthful is to point to God, and to point to God is to be truthful.
If we want life–for ourselves and for our planet–the truth must be brought to light:
- The truth that the United States is history’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide
- The truth that we don’t have time to waste when it comes to reversing climate change
- The truth that we have already lost so much due to unbridled carbon dioxide emission
Christians, it’s time to live the truth.
(1) Marcus Borg, Evolution of the Word (New York: Harper One, 2012), 307.