Fake news.  False reports.  Fact checking.  

Here’s what I’m realizing:  everyone has a deep desire to know the truth.  Our hardest part is differentiating truth from opinions.  Truth is absolute and opinions are resolute.  Truth is factual and opinions are emotional.  Truth is accurate and opinions acclimate.  Truth authenticates and opinions speculate.   Truth is principled and opinion is personal.

I realize there are times when our opinions come into alignment with truth.  I would argue we want our opinions to be truth.  But what I’m simply trying to do is show the difference between how we analyze a situation versus how we feel about a situation.  Because there are times when how we feel about something is different than what is the truth about something.

Recently my son and I were working math problems.  I have a hard time changing the oil of my car in my driveway to show my son that “his dad is valuable for life success” so I have to resort to showing off my video game skills, breakdance moves and keen math intuition (fun fact:  I was considering being a math teacher – but not the boring kind but the fun kind – the kind that says “If you have the high score in Call of Duty and your buddy, jacked up on 5 hour energy drinks beats you by 36%, what is the total points that ….” – you get my drift).  My son begins to ask for help on checking his long division.  When I pointed out that 19 divided by 6 is not 3, he began to get upset and tell me how he knows it’s right because he “felt he did the right formula.”  He then points with his fingers and shows me that “see dad, three 6’s fit into 19.”  We all know there is a remainder of “1” that my kid couldn’t wrap his head around or understand. Even though he was right about three 6’s, the teacher would still mark it incorrect if he didn’t show that.  His feelings were very real and he was right in his logic up to a point but his limited knowledge of the truth of division and his passionate feelings about being right about the answer misguided him. 

 He felt he was right…but he was still wrong.

I hate to say it, but 2 + 2 will never equal 5 no matter how you feel about it.  It is simply a truth that we all live by.  As young adults, we feel passionate about things.  We may even establish them as truths in our own mind.  However, there is a difference between opinions on matters and the truth of the matter.  As you spend time in your young adults communities and in your small groups or one-on-one, key cultural issues will surface in the midst of the conversation along with a variety of opinions.  So how do we find truth in the midst of opinions? Here are 4 lessons that helped me.

 1. SCRIPTURE IS ALWAYS OUR STARTING POINT

As young adults and leaders leading this next generation, we can’t waver on the source of our truth. “Experts” are willing to give us their latest research and findings after studying a particular topic. Should we read, listen to, and chew on the findings in the areas of culture that we are passionate about? Absolutely! However, research and findings can never replace the complete source of truth: Scriptures.  So start with what the Bible says and work your way forward from there.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

2. KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS

If you think asking questions or doubting what you believe makes you less of Christian…you are mistaken. You own your faith.  That is exactly what God wants and what the Christian community needs. 

Followers of Christ who aren’t blindly following but who are sincere about what they believe makes the church relevant and stronger.

 When we are in our communities, we don’t have to avoid the things that may seem difficult or may cause some controversy in the conversation. The fact that we are willing to talk about the hard questions of culture and faith breaks down a mindset that many young adults have:  You are not allowed to doubt or ask questions in church.  Simply not true.  The refugee crisis is divisive to Christians, some believe it’s our duty and some believe it’s dangerous.  So ask the questions and debate the answers.  You are not less of a Christian for doing it. 

As said earlier, we have to point out that some issues are not as easily solved or answered with the Bible or the church.  That’s ok.  Live in the grey but let BOTH loving God AND loving people guide your actions. 

Loving God without loving people makes you “religious” and loving people without loving God makes you contentious.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  1 Corinthians 13:4

 3. ITS NOT “WHAT” YOU THINK BUT “HOW” YOU THINK

In a society where everything is figured out for us by typing in a few words in Google or asking Siri, we have lost the desire or ability to actually think through an issue. Recently, if you think differently than the other, you are labeled anti-_______ than celebrating our differences; we have lost our courage to have conversations with those who think differently than us.  As a young adult community, take the role of helping each other learn how to think.

Ask hard questions—not information questions—but questions that intersect with the daily realities of life. Key individuals in my life challenged me to think. There were college professors and mentors who did not allow me to simply be satisfied with the “correct” answer or the “churchy” answers.  They asked me WHY I believe that which pushed me to consider how I came to that conclusion. I am grateful for leaders who gave me permission to “pushback” and helped me use my mind to find truth on critical issues. 

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

RELATED: 6 Ways to Love Like Jesus in a Tolerant Culture

4. THE TRUTH OF AN ISSUE IS DIFFERENT THAN THE PERSON TIED TO THE ISSUE

The hard part is when the truth of the Bible conflicts with our love for the person.  I was at a restaurant last night and I was talking with some bright and smart young adults in my community.  When we were talking, I realized the world isn’t as black and white on issues as it used to be.  What I mean is that issues that we are reading about and talking about aren’t just policies on paper but are tied to human beings connected to these issues.  We can’t talk about the truths of refugees, abortion, same sex attraction, etc without connecting them to someone we know or someone who knows someone. 

This makes it complicated.  Because as Christians, we have a source of truth that is undeniable to us:  Jesus.  He made it clear that He is the way, the truth and life.  The Bible, the Word of God, is also our source of truth.  As Christians we believe it to be the ultimate source of how we develop our convictions and celebrate our values.  However, it becomes complicated when we are trying to decide how we feel or what we think about a cultural issue.  In many cases, we have truth connected to our faith AND to a person.  This is where feelings cloud our judgments, judgments affect our opinions, opinions direct our emotions, and emotions give us reactions.

The truth of a matter doesn’t change the truth that we love the person connected to the matter. 

Grace and truth work together to give us posture and narrative that builds unity in our community rather than unraveling our community.  If you don’t have truth, you will have a weak community that doesn’t stand under pressure because their foundation will shift when the opinions do.  If you don’t have grace, you have a community that is selfish and exclusive.  The essence of the word “grace” means charitable and favorable.  So if we choose to not show favor and charity to those different than us, then your community becomes prejudiced.  Let grace and truth work together.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Alan Pastian works is a Pastor at River Valley Church in Minneapolis, MN, where he lives with his wife, Heidi, and is father to Anja and Magnus, he thinks coffee and community are inseparable, he believes a picture speaks a thousand words, he celebrates films as modern-day parables and is committed to collecting experiences more than collecting things.