I’ve spent a lot of time on university campuses, three campuses as a student and one as faculty. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of talk about truth. Generally speaking, the consensus is that truth is individual—what is true for you may not be true for me, and what is true for me may not be true for you. And the truth could change. As we gain new knowledge, we may alter our views. For me, that doesn’t define truth at all. For me, that defines opinion. That is not to say that we can’t learn more about truth as we go through life, but truth doesn’t change, only our knowledge of it does.
In French, there are two ways to express the verb to know. Savoir is used when the meaning is to know a fact or to know how to do something. Connaître is used for being familiar with a place or for knowing people. In English, we don’t have those distinctions, but Jesus told us in John 14:6 that He is the Truth. So in John 8:32 when He speaks of knowing the truth and being set free by the truth, He is referring to Himself. In this case, there is no question of what that truth might be depending on who perceives it. John 8:31 makes it clear. “If you continue to follow my teaching,” Jesus says, “then you will be true disciples...” John 8:32 continues the sentence, “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So often people take John 8:32 out of context, and use it alone to encourage the pursuit of knowledge. But that is not the point of this verse. Jesus is encouraging new believers to know Him. He is telling them how to truly be disciples, and He gives them a promise, that abiding in Him will give them freedom. He didn’t mean political freedom as the speakers of John 8:33 must have assumed, but spiritual freedom, freedom from bondage to sin. (John 8:34-36)
Being somewhat academically inclined, and also somewhat idealistic, I like to know the truth for the sake of knowing the truth. But if knowing that truth, also brings freedom, that’s a bonus that I don’t want to miss out on. So I will choose to abide in the teaching of Jesus who is the Truth. Will you?