A young girl stands before her classmates and teacher. Her teacher has chosen to be cruel. “Is it true,” asks the teacher with a sneer, “that your father is a drunkard?” The girl is well aware that her father comes home very late at night. She also knows the condition he is in when he does finally come home. Yet she responds flatly. “No,” she says. “My father is not a drunkard.”

In one of his essays, Dietrich Bonhoeffer uses this example to ask the question, “What does it mean to tell the truth?” What are we to make of this girl who brazenly refutes an indisputable fact? That’s a complicated question, but for Bonhoeffer the answer is clear. The girl did not lie. She spoke a truth that was deeper than what her teacher or classmates could grasp. (I found this in Eric Metaxas’s book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.)

Deeper truths are not warranted by the bare facts of surface realities or present circumstances. They draw instead upon the full depth of the encounter between two people—two people who have come to love each other. The girl speaks truly out of her encounter with her father, a person who is much more to her than someone with a drinking problem.