We can thank lawyers for adding “Devil’s advocate” to the American vocabulary. It’s a process where someone takes the opposing side of an issue to test the strength of one’s own case. We may have friends who do this with us for sport—or just to annoy us. But the fact we see law firm ads trolling for business from anyone who believes they’ve been wronged (“We WILL make them pay!”) tells me some lawyers have based their business on playing devil’s advocate, no matter where the truth of someone’s case lies. The devil is in the details—and the half-truths woven from them.
Humanity has always been good at speaking out of both sides of its mouth. On top of that, we’ve developed many languages that don’t always translate into other languages very precisely. Multiple languages, multiple meanings, multiple truths—and multiple falsehoods (see the vigil reading about the Tower of Babel, (Gn 11:1-9). ) That’s why we complex creatures see this Sunday’s readings for Pentecost as so miraculous. Our first reading from Acts (Acts 2:1-11) testifies to the amazement of witnesses from different nations with different tongues who hear the apostles translating the truth into their languages:
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. … but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them speaking in his native language … of the mighty acts of God?
The Holy Spirit is able to boil the simple truth out of the human complexities we hide behind.
Truth is simple—it’s the language of the Spirit. When we live in truth, as we do if we follow God’s simple requirements, the Spirit is our advocate, as our gospel reading from John states (Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26):
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.
As Paul states, the spirit of truth is not only our advocate, but our chief character witness in proving our right to claim an inheritance (Rom 8:8-17):
You received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs.
Jesus said he is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one can achieve that inheritance except through him. Those three elements of his essence are one with each other, just as Jesus is one with our Father and the Spirit. If we want their powerful law firm to be our advocates, it’s up to us to get the devil out of our details.