The fourth and final statement that Jesus makes to Pilate in the narrative we find at John 18 and 19 confirms another aspect of the nature of truth: that truth is not dependent on anything outside of itself, and, therefore, truth cannot fail because its ultimate origin is eternal. Pilate says to Jesus:
“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus says to Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:10-11).
Pilate’s belief in his absolute authority over the destiny of Jesus rested in his temporal perception of certain facts. Pilate didn’t know the whole story. While Jesus did die physically at the hands of an earthly power little did Pilate know that Jesus had said to Peter just a few hours earlier: “Put your sword away. Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Jesus knew who was in control. Jesus knew the whole truth of this encounter while Pilate did not. The truth was not dependent on what Pilate believed then and it does not depend, ultimately, on what we believe either. The truth is!
In a church in conflict how often do opposing sides attack each other’s understanding of what is really going on? That, in my experience, is one of the most common forms of attack. Frequently spoken words in a church conflict are: “They just don’t understand!” That is when I think to myself, “None of these people on either side understand what God is really up to as they go on displaying conduct and speaking words that have little to do with Scripture’s exhortation to live at peace with all men, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” They don’t ask: “What is God doing in our conflict? What is He most concerned about? Do we know what Jesus wants and are we pursuing that rather than just making attacks on one another?” Just as Pilate didn’t “see” the whole picture, neither do those pursuing conflict in the church. They often overlook the fact that it is the nature of truth to find truth by looking beyond the temporal situation into the eternal reality and context of God’s church.
The search for truth in church conflicts must be driven by something bigger, much bigger, than merely winning. John Wycliffe, the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” once said:
“I believe that in the end the truth will conquer.”
In his final statement to Pilate, Jesus makes it clear that his coming crucifixion is no accident or because he was just a victim of wrong circumstances or even the result of an intentional conspiracy. No. Jesus is controlling his own destiny because he chose to “drink the cup” the Father had given to him. Jesus knew the nature of truth and accepted as truth the path set for him. In the end the truth will conquer. In the end, only the truth will last.
If only in the midst of church conflicts we would stop and grasp what Jesus grasped…that situations aren’t what they seem and that we have been called to look beyond what we see from our limited perch and begin to see God’s purpose in our lives together in the church as his eternal family. In Jesus’s death on the cross truth was not defeated—it conquered! When we redeem our church conflicts for God’s glory truth is not defeated, it is magnified as we see and claim the unseen, the unseen primacy of God’s will for our unity and our relationships rooted in the eternal unity the Father and the Son and the Spirit have with each other. Only as we reframe our conflicts into an eternally meaningful dialog driven by a desire to live as those who know of God’s absolute priority for our peaceful relationships as his eternal children will we begin to manifest an understanding of the nature of truth and that only the truth cannot fail.
The church is the Lord’s and we are his people. Our fights in the church are not divorced from the reality of eternity as they might be if fought in any other venue. It is time we woke up and realized that church conflicts have eternal meaning one way or another and to take them far more seriously than any fight between corporate giants or even nations. We are the church of Jesus Christ and what we do makes a difference for eternity. Our priority must become aligned with God’s otherwise we are just fighting the truth and that will not last. Church conflicts almost always move the church away from truth rather than toward it; away from relationships in Christ meant to display His priority for unity rather than overcome it.
Tara and I chose 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 as our theme passage for Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care because we believe the truth stated there most closely captures the nature of the truth that should be at work in church conflicts. I end this series with the eternal truth of those words:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Setting our church’s conflicts in the context of eternity makes a huge difference. May God give us all new eyes to see what is really at stake.
For the Truth of The Lamb,