John Adams famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.” He spoke those words as the defense attorney for the British militia charged in connection with the Boston Massacre. The facts led to the acquittal of Prescott and his men, but made Adams understandably unpopular with his fellow colonists for a time. Those stubborn facts refused to yield to Adams’ immediate interests.
I’ve often resented facts for disturbing my preconceived notions. They often do, much to my consternation. As I’ve lived in the Greater Boston Area these past thirteen years, for example, I’ve visited many historical and literary sites. Usually such visits allow me to romanticize historical and literary figures. I enjoy fantasizing about their admirable qualities while ignoring the more inconvenient details of their lives.
A case in point would be my 2008 trip to Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts. This childhood home of Lousia May Alcott served as a model for the house in her novel, Little Women, which I’ve read many times over. John excitedly took photos, as I imagined Jo March (the character in Little Women that Lousia May Alcott patterned after herself) “scribbling” her stories in her garret. In reality, as we learned from the docent who spoke with us, Lousia wrote from her bedroom on the second floor, rather than from the garret, though I’m sure I spotted a small, white writing table through the third storey window!
In the years that followed the visit to Orchard House, I learned more about Louisa, including things that deeply disappointed me. Her reluctance to write Little Women, her fascination with more lurid subject matter, her self-styled spirituality (influenced by Unitarian beliefs) and her ambiguous sexuality that lead some scholars to speculate that she leaned toward lesbianism all tarnish my image of her. In short, she wasn’t who I wanted her to be. The facts, being as stubborn with me as they were with John Adams, refuse to conform to my fanciful imagination, and I resent their intrusion.
The facts of the Gospel can feel just as intrusive to non-Christians and false converts. They run counter to all that we desire to believe about God…and about ourselves. We detest the very idea that He claims the right to establish standards for our behavior. We reject His teachings about hell and judgment. We rebel against the Bible’s authority. Most of all we resent Jesus for claiming to be the only means of salvation.
Yet He claimed exactly that. And He claimed it on the basis that He is Himself the Truth.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~~John 14:6 (ESV)
As the Truth, Jesus lays out the facts of eternal life, regardless of whether or not we want to hear them. We don’t get to tailor Him to our preferences any more than I can tailor Louisa May Alcott to mine.
Facts are indeed stubborn. But embracing the facts of the Gospel leads to the most profound joy imaginable. Jesus, as He reveals Himself in Scripture, by far exceeds every idea we can concoct of Him. Praise God for the glorious facts that can’t give way to our little fantasies. They stubbornly provide security.