If you’ve never seen the movie, “A Few Good Men,” or haven’t seen it in a long time, it might be worth a watch. The now legendary scene when Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise are verbally jousting in the courtroom, and the General, played by Jack, blows a gasket and yells, “You can’t handle the truth!” is the inspiration for today.
Too many people, thinking they are ambassadors for “truth,” are really just nosey moral police who love processing controversial information to arrive at self-aggrandizing positions of moral superiority. And it’s wrong.
Their position might be right—who knows—but they are wrong, at least in approach. They can’t handle the truth, even though they are strangely confident they have a corner on the market.
In the beginning, God told the first humans to eat from any tree—except one.
“Enjoy everything I’ve provided, just show me that you trust me, and stay away from one tree.” One stupid tree, in a garden full of luscious trees, providing more than enough nutrients and enjoyment. Yet, they did what humans still do; they went straight for the one forbidden tree. The tree? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil—right and wrong.
Why was that the one tree God told them to stay away from? Because we can’t handle the truth. We weren’t designed to. We were designed to trust God and follow. Not make moral judgments on everything and everyone. Not surprisingly, our world is getting more and more confusing, convoluted, and divided—everyone with their own claim to “truth.”
All the while our human—moral—obsession with good versus evil, right versus wrong, is the original trap.
“Did God really say not to eat of that tree,” The enemy whispered? Planting seeds of doubt and setting the trap of moral pride. “He just doesn’t want you to be like him—knowing right and wrong.”
We love feeling like our own little gods. We don’t need to trust and depend on the invisible Spirit day by day, moment by moment, as long as we can pretend to be a god, ourselves. False religion is obsession with moral standards that insulate us from our need for God and His grace. It’s the original sin, and the drug of choice of many, many religious types.
You can’t handle the truth.
That’s why when John—close friend and biographer of Jesus—said that Jesus brought and embodied “grace and truth” (John 1:14,17), the word “grace” comes before “truth” on both occasions. We’d do well to take the order of the words seriously, and remember that even when we’re confident in our truth, we’d better lather it in grace. Because we weren’t meant to handle truth on our own. And we still “see through a glass dimly.”
So the next time you want to shout down someone with your truth, pause and make sure that in your “rightness,” you’re not wrong. Go with grace first… then offer what you hope is truth with humility.