All he did was tell them the truth. Yet they wanted to kill him…for telling the truth.
That is what we are told in the Gospel of John by Jesus himself. “As it is, you are looking for a way to kill a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God…” (Jn 8.40). This should not surprise us since Israel had a history of killing prophets who came along. Even though hindsight always has the advantage of 20/20 vision, this is very insightful about the nature of truth telling.
The truth is neither convenient nor always a warm-hearted inspirational message. Sometimes the truth is a reality check, a critique of the way things are because of the way things could be. It won’t always be something welcomed with wide-open arms but it is still the truth. Yet for some, the truth remains something welcomed when it suits them and when it doesn’t… Well, history is full of preachers and prophetic voices who have been dismissed, ridiculed, exiled, imprisoned, and even killed for telling the truth.
The role of any preacher is first to be a truth teller. While there will always be a place among the Christian community for exercising discernment as to whether the truth is being told, to object because the message fails to be a positive, warm-hearted, inspirational message is simply mistaken. If the messenger is not telling the truth then by all means object. But the lack of a positive, warm-hearted, inspirational message has never and never will be an indicator of truth.
If people are to be followers of Jesus then it will always require the truth being told. Rather than being a list of propositions supported by proof-texts made for an ad hoc argument, it is truth predicated on the reality of The One who is “the way and the truth and the life” (cf. Jn 14.6). Consequently, it is truth that must be embodied if it is to be proclaimed without hypocrisy. It is the truth which the church must proclaim to it’s surrounding culture and it the truth that those whom God has called to lead the church must proclaim to the church as well.
Therefore, to tell the truth is one of the vocational tasks of participating in God’s mission.
All he did was tell them the truth. Yet…