Speaking truth to power
This past Thursday we celebrated the martyrdom of John the Baptist. He spoke the truth to power when told King Herod that it was not lawful to be married to his brother’s wife, Herodias. She hated John for saying this and when the opportunity arose she had John beheaded.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they were on a collision course with the religious power brokers of the day. Because he would continue to speak the truth to power he would be betrayed, handed over to the authorities, undergo great sufferings and be put to death. This was to be his future and they were to be part of it. To say the least they were upset by this news. Peter couldn’t his head around it at all. ‘This must never happen to you Lord.’ Jesus, who just a short before had called Peter a rock now called him a stumbling block and Satan because he tried to talk Jesus out of his mission which involved speaking truth to power.
From the beginning of his public life there were those who tried to divert Jesus from his life’s mission. It began with his temptation in the desert when the tempter suggested Jesus find an easier, more popular way of accomplishing his life’s mission. There were probably a number of times when the disciples advised Jesus to go easy on the priests of the temple, the scribes and Pharisees. Calling them hypocrites and whiten sephulres was not too politic. The apostles probably suggested Jesus might lighten up on the rhetoric. Even his own townsmen threw him out of town for claiming that the words spoken to the prophet Isaiah were being fulfilled in him. Jesus spoke the truth to his townspeople to the fact that he was chosen by God for a special task. In his own lifetime, Jesus was able to read the handwriting on the wall. He had made an ever-growing number of powerful enemies. Their desire to have him put to death was no secret. As he said to Pilate at his trial, ‘for this was I born, for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth.’ Speaking the truth to power would cost Jesus his life.
There can be times in our lives when we are challenge to speak the truth to power. We may be involved in a conversation with a friend or find ourselves in a group when things are said we find offensive, racist, bigoted or homophobic. But do we have the courage to speak up, challenge these harmful, maybe even hateful words? When people say things that belittle people of other races and backgrounds, when we hear good people being stereotyped in derogatory ways, when we hear words that belittle the humiliation of people using food banks, unemployed young people, the reality of children in this city going to school hungry, when we hears people excusing the injustices suffered by the peoples of our first nations do we speak the truth to the power of these lies? Are we afraid of being challenged or unpopular, afraid of taking sides, afraid of speaking up for those good people who are being put down by these hurtful even hateful words?
Every Sunday the scriptures remind us of the teachings and the example of Christ. We hear them as part of our celebration of the great sacrifice he offered his father when, out of love for every person who walks the earth he gave his life on the altar of the cross. Every man, woman and child is of infinite worth to him as they should be to us. As people who bear his name, Christian, we should know that following Him costs the follower. The cost is a willingness to let go of our hunger for security, approval, and comfort and take up our own cross of love and forgiveness and a willingness to recognize the worth and dignity of all people.
May we being willing to speak the truth to the power of those who would deny the rights and dignity of our fellow human beings, sons and daughters of the God who made us all, brothers and sisters of the Christ who died for us all.