The Risks of Truth-Telling

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:

billmuehlenberg.com/2009/03/23/truth-and-love/

billmuehlenberg.com/2011/07/12/love-and-truth-again/

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.”

[1151 words]

8 Replies to “The Risks of Truth-Telling”

  1. Pilate asked the King of the Jews, “What is truth?”, then he crucified the the Truth Incarnate for the sake of cheap political convenience!

    In a time when many see doubt as the most popularly received creed, and others believe both good and evil are but passing, inconvenient illusions, declaration of eternal truth is bound to goad many rebellious minds to the point of rage.

    John Wigg

  2. “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”
    – Augustine of Hippo (354–430)

    Monica Craver

  3. The truth is elusive and can be easily contorted and morphed into something different.

    First there is the worts ‘n all truth which requires making a stand to say exactly what you saw, heard, or understood, whether it would be embarrassing, inconvenient or even dangerous.

    Then there is the “white lie” told with the best of intentions to spare someone else’s feelings but nonetheless a dishonest way of dealing with another person.

    Propaganda: where the truth is manufactured or revised and trained to a direction to suit a preferred belief, sometimes enforced with intimidation.

    Suppresion of the truth – the official silence, the “elephant in the room” , the omerta conspiracy of silence. When, in two sides of an argument, only one side is allowed to be aired and adhered to, again on pain of retribution.

    The “dog whistle” truth: a key words triggers an automatic response without recourse to any facts, details or complexities and a pre-judged conclusion is jumped at.

    Muffling of the truth: an example in the press today when the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury was described as giving “the most foggy and frustrating presentation of the Christian faith we’ve probably every heard from such a senior cleric”.

    The truth is important. and it would be unwise to let ourselves become un-moored from it. We need to be able to recognise it. Jesus said that a tree is known my its fruit and that on the day of judgement people will have to give account of every careless word they speak. That’s good enough for me, as I know every word we speak is important and has consequences.

    We will surely benefit from a faith leader who is inspired with conviction of the truth of Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Word made Flesh who dwelled among us full of grace and truth. We need someone who can tell us about the good news of the story of Jesus. However such a leader cannot do everything alone and needs the help of the faithful to participate in spreading what we call the Word of God.

    Rachel Smith, UK

  4. You do well Bill to quote John 15:26. The question is not “what is truth” but “Who is Truth”. Jesus our Saviour,
    Lord and Intercessor said that the Holy Spirit is Truth – Truth is the Righteous presence of Holy Spirit bringing and confirming what Jesus said in John 16:13. “Spirit of Truth .. will guide you into all the truth ..[14] He shall Glorify Me for He shall take of Mine and will disclose it to you”.

    Conviction by Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus is a now and present danger to our pride, self interest and idolatry. Perhaps that is why we appear to major elsewhere other than in His realm of the spirit.

    Ray Robinson

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