It is a fact that under his leadership his country was instrumental in taking down one of the world’s most brutal dictators. It is a fact that he transformed his country into the world’s second largest economy. It is a fact that, even before America’s Civil Rights Act of 1964, women in his country enjoyed equal employment rights. It is a fact that diseases dropped to low numbers as a result of his country’s health care initiatives.
Yet, in one online opinion poll he is perceived to be more evil than Adolf Hitler. How can the facts suggest one thing about a person, but the perception of that person be so totally different?
To understand how facts and perception can differ so greatly, let’s first identify the leader we’re talking about.
It’s Josef Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from the 1920’s until his death in 1953. While he did do some good, he is better known as the tyrant responsible for millions of people who died during his rule as the result of mass murders, man-made famines, executions, and imprisonments.
But if all we knew about Stalin were the facts contained in the first paragraph, we would be left with a positive misperception of him. Those “good” facts about Stalin would create a positive perception that is at odds with the whole truth.
Facts are knowledge or information based on real occurrences, while perception is defined as achieving an understanding of what the facts mean or represent. But the truth is “that which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.”
Rather than the positive misrepresentation given above, the whole truth (aka, the reality) about Stalin is more accurately represented in this quote from a PBS biography: “The man who turned the Soviet Union from a backward country into a world superpower at unimaginable human cost.”
But the disconnect between facts, perception, and the whole truth also can work the opposite way. Facts about a person can create a negative perception that is at odds with the whole truth. Let’s take Jesus for example.
For many of us, our perception of Jesus is based on a few facts we’ve picked up here and there. Fact: Jesus is perfect. Perception: I have to be perfect in order to please Him. Fact: Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Perception: Jesus exists to judge me. Fact: Jesus hates sin. Perception: I sin, so Jesus must hate me.
But have we taken the time to find out the whole truth about Him? The whole truth about Jesus is that His perfection helps us to see what perfect love looks like in the flesh, which includes being merciful and forgiving. The whole truth about Jesus is that He did not come to judge us. Many of us have heard the verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But few of us have ever heard the verse right after it: “For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save it.” (John 3:16-17)
The whole truth is that Jesus does not hate us because we miss it every once in a while. We all fall short. He loves us regardless. His death on the cross was His way of walking His love talk. He loved us enough to sacrifice His own life so that, through his resurrection, we would have eternal life.
God desires for us to always know the whole truth about Him, and not get trapped in misperceptions. Come and join us this Sunday at 9:00 AM or 11:00 AM, as our guest speaker, Todd Pokrifka discusses the office of the Teacher as the “guardian of truth” in the Church.