For Christians the importance of truth cannot be overstated. It is the very basis of our Christian faith and without it we have no real gospel, no real Jesus, and no real faith. Indeed, over 150 times the New Testament uses the term, and its relationship to God, the gospel, and the Christian life is quite clear.
Consider just a few of these many passages:
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 3:21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
John 15:26 When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
John 18:37 For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.
2 Tim 3:6-7 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.
2 Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 John 1:3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.
3 John 1:3-4 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Because God is true, truth is absolutely important. Of course truth alone can become harsh, cold and even un-Christian. Thus Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4:15 to “speak the truth in love”. And we must never forget that love and truth are intimately connected. If you really love someone, you will want to tell them the truth. That relationship I have dealt with elsewhere:
But here I want to focus on another aspect of the truth. In my daily reading I came upon this stark word from the Apostle Paul: “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Yes, that is a very real risk whenever we speak truth.
By telling the Galatians the truth Paul was well aware that many would react in a negative fashion, and many would in fact turn on Paul. He would of necessity lose some friends and make some enemies if he was to be faithful to the truth of the gospel.
Truth-speaking will always result in people getting angry with us, rejecting us, and becoming our enemies. That is because of the simple reason that not everyone wants to hear the truth. The truth exposes people and illuminates their lives. Not everyone is happy with this.
Jesus made this perfectly clear in John 3. There we read these searching words: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:19-21).
Truth-speaking and light-shining will not always be welcomed. In fact they will often be violently rejected. Believers need to be aware of this, and not be surprised or unduly disappointed that their efforts to proclaim truth are met with disdain, hostility and rejection.
Sure, we must do all we can to speak truth in a loving and gracious manner. But don’t forget, no one was more loving and gracious than Jesus, yet he often produced very negative and angry reactions. So if even Jesus cannot guarantee a warm reception to truth, then why should we think it will happen for us?
Adrian Rogers had it exactly right when he said, “It is better to be divided by Truth, than to be united in error. It is better to speak the Truth that hurts and then heals, than to speak a lie that will comfort and then kill. It is better to be hated for telling the Truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is better to stand alone with the Truth, than to be wrong with a multitude. Better to ultimately die with the Truth, than to live with a lie.”
Quite so. All Christians are under strict obligation to proclaim truth. We dare not shy away from truth-speaking simply because we may upset people, lose friends, and alienate many. Jesus kept speaking the truth, even though it took him all the way to a nasty death on a cross.
We his disciples must be prepared to do just the same. We must be willing to pay the price of truth-telling. People desperately need to hear the truth of God, and if we do not tell them the truth, who will? Now is not the time to bow out of truth-proclaiming because of cowardice, fear, concern about what people might say or think, or a false sense of tolerance.
As Catherine Booth said in Aggressive Christianity, “The interests of truth demand this outspokenness. How is error to be met but by the bold proclamation of the truth? How the emissaries of Satan are palming upon mankind his lies – always at it, night and day. How are they to be silenced but by witnesses faithfully crying in their ears, ‘This is a lie, and that is a lie. This is the truth and this is the way. We know, we see, we feel – walk in it. Turn, turn, for why would you want to die?’ God wants outspoken witnesses. There are plenty of false witnesses now, as there ever were, and what does Jesus Christ want? He wants His true witnesses to come out and face them, and be a match for them – not to sneak away in holes and corners, and be ashamed of their religion, and talk about an ‘unobtrusive religion’ – unobtrusive nonsense. There is no such thing! Come out before the world.”