The heavy price of speaking the truth

In recent times, we have become acutely conscious about the importance of speaking the truth — and the heavy price that sometimes comes with it.

Feb 15, 2018

By Anil Netto
In recent times, we have become acutely conscious about the importance of speaking the truth — and the heavy price that sometimes comes with it.

This is especially so if the truth hurts those with powerful or vested interests.

John the Baptist who spoke inconvenient truths was detained and then executed after he spoke inconvenient truths about local leaders.

Jesus himself was crucified – a form of punishment reserved by the Romans for rebels, slaves and pirates. And for what? Speaking the truth. Pilate even had the temerity to utter those infamous words, “What is truth?”

Even before that, Jesus had been hounded out of his home town and nearly thrown off a cliff.

This happened soon after he spoke his mission statement in Luke Chapter 4:

18 The spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

19 to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.

So far so good.

But then, Jesus said, “In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.”

That got the crowd in the synagogue in Nazara really riled up. 29 They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff.
Narrow escape there.

But how true those words are. The prophetic voices in our midst are often isolated, hustled out, intimidated, thrown in jail and at times killed.

And it is one of the ironies that we isolate and shun the voices in our midst speaking clearly about inconvenient home truths. Those who speak out against tyranny, injustice, corruption, abuse of human rights often do so at great risk and then have to pay a heavy price. Freedom of speech but no freedom after speech!

Fines, jail terms, humiliation, torture, imprisonment (think Martin Luther King and Gandhi), executions, assassination.

In the past those who spoke out against injustice and abuse of power as a violation of God’s plan were often tortured and put to death. They were called prophets.

But the tyrants and the corrupt continued to surface and rule for long periods.

But no matter how powerful they may be — for how long? Take the classic case of Herod the Great, who ingratiated himself to the Romans and married into the influential Hasmonean family, the same Herod, who, the Gospels tell us, ordered the death of innocent babies.

According to the historian Josephus, Herod, despite all his power and fame, had grown suspicious even of his own large family, including his own sons (three of whom were executed) from his ten wives, who he thought were plotting against him.

Turned stark raving mad at times, he saw plots and conspiracies in every corner. In the end, after ruling for 37 tumultuous years, he suffered a nasty death from dreadful diseases, dying in terrible agony.

Throughout history, those who work for justice and peace will be faced with ridicule, persecution and even suffering. That is why in the Beatitudes, Matthew Chapter 5, we read:

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

“Uprightness” may be understood to be similar to righteousness or justice.

This was written at a time when many who were proclaiming the justice found in the kingdom of God were being persecuted, even tortured.

So no matter what the personal cost of speaking the truth, if it is for the cause of justice and peace, for the larger common good, it has to be proclaimed no matter what the price.

Easier said than done, but if we ask for the courage and strength, then the impossible becomes possible. For in the end, truth and justice will triumphant against the odds.

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