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Repetition Does Not Make it True

I was walking with my granddaughter the other day to a creek near our house. Along the way, she started to talk, “We are going down to the water and there we are going to find a frog but the frog is really a prince. We are going to talk to the frog and then it will turn into the prince and he will meet a princess. Then the two of them will build an ark and they will live happily ever after.” It was cute and it was funny but it certainly wasn’t true. In her imagination, she had invented a narrative and she would have defended it aggressively if I had questioned her about the details or challenged her premise. Of course, there was no need to challenge any of her story because it was a three-year old cultivating her imagination. Besides, it was very entertaining.
It isn’t quite at amusing when it happens in real life. By Nehemiah 6, the Israelites had made significant progress on the rebuilding of the wall. “. . . I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates.” (v. 1) The news was troubling to those who opposed the project from the beginning so they plotted a way to stop the work and frustrate the workers. “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king . . . “ (v. 6) None of this was true but it sounded dramatic and it was plausible. After all, other selfishly ambitious men had done similar acts. Nehemiah was not ego-driven, however, so he responded, “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (v. 8 ) There was no evidence to support the opposition’s conclusion and, in fact, Nehemiah had already proven otherwise. It sounded like it could be true, however, so they kept saying it. “Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message . . .” (v. 4-5)
I wish I could say this tactic is limited to the book of Nehemiah but it is a common method in public discourse. When a thought fits people’s agendas they will repeat it over and over until others are convinced it is true. Rather than explain the truth with its implications, leaders will replicate sound bites that capture others emotionally. Rather than search out what is true, followers will assume a thought that is repeated so many times by highly respected officials must be correct.
I want to be the kind of person who holds on to truth simply because it is true. Like Nehemiah, I want to stay the course with the unwavering belief that in the end the truth will win out. I am not naïve enough to think that truth wins every skirmish but I am convinced that ultimately the truth will prevail and those who follow what is true will stand victorious.

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One Response

  1. I like your granddaughter’s story; it’s cute, and full of imagination, creativity, hope and energy. It’s funny how this is acceptable as a 3-year old, but as we grow older/up, it becomes less and less acceptable and even scorned and scoffed at as unsociable and deceitful. Yet we, as adults, continue to do this, just on a more elaborate and complex basis – often convincing ourselves of the truth of our own fantasy or story that we’ve woven ourselves!

    I’m so tired of seeing and hearing this from our elected officials.

    Getting clear about truth – the real truth, the actual and absolute truth – gives us freedom! Allowing and encouraging ourselves to believe our “stories” – and others’ “stories” – is the equivalent of putting the shackles and irons on ourselves, then throwing ourselves in jail and giving someone else the keys!

    I have to remind myself that part of the awesome responsibility that I have to be “Salt and Light” is to be salty! To live in the truth. To be vigilant about what I’m saying, shoot, even what I’m thinking BEFORE saying it. It starts with me! How can I be salt and light to others, after all, if I’m not being salt and light myself!? It’s only then that I can impact and influence others for truth in my sphere of influence.

    Saw this today and it seems to just “fit”:
    “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects, encourages and enhances the freedom of others.”
    – Nelson Mandela

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