A recent computer search on the phrase “the painful truth” yielded a plethora of statements. An anonymous author said, “The truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever.” A quote from Yasmin Mogahed gave me food for thought (although I know little about her and nothing about the context of the quote). She said, “Don’t lie to me. Don’t deceive me. Give me the truth. Even if it breaks me. A painful truth is better than a comforting lie.” The inspired writer of Psalm 46:1 had learned, “God is our refuge and strength, a very help in trouble.” Someone put a clearly humorous twist on the words of that verse when they wrote, “A lie is an abomination unto the Lord, and a very present help in trouble.” Be careful which half of that “half-truth” you believe! The truth is the truth sometimes hurts. Rodney Dangerfield (famed for “I can’t get no respect” jokes) said, “My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said, ‘Okay, you’re ugly too.”

The truth hurts. And speaking the truth may bring pain not only to those who hear it, but also to those who dare to speak it. Someone said, “Know the truth and it will make you free. Speak the truth and you may get a punch in the nose.” This statement highlights a less than impressive truth about human beings — we often don’t really want the truth and we tend to make it hard on those who insist on telling the truth. At the top of the list of those who suffered for truth-telling, of course, is Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of truth (John 14:6). Jesus declared that He came to “bear witness to the truth” and went on to make the audacious claim, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). He said those words to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who presided over Jesus’ (mis)trial and subsequent crucifixion. That truth proved too painful for Pilate, politically and personally, and he sought to dismiss the Lord’s claim with the incredulous question (and very contemporary notion), “What is truth?” Jesus, for His stand for and willingness to speak truth, not only got punched in the nose but also got nailed to a tree. In the book of ACTS the Gospel proved troublesome (for a prime example read Acts chapter 17).

The Gospel truth still proves troublesome. It insists not every way is equal and right morally or religiously (Matthew 7:13-14). The apostles address such controversial issues as money, sexual behavior (and misbehavior, including heterosexual adultery and homosexual acts), divorce, drunkenness, greed, prejudice, pride, etc. They preached there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God (Ephesians 4:4-6). They were never rude or crude in preaching truth but “spoke the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But they preached the truth God gave them, no matter how much pain it brought or trouble it caused. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The simple truth is that speaking the truth can be painful, for those who hear it as well as those who speak it. But be sure of this — punching a truth-speaker in the nose may change the truth-speaker’s face, but it will not change the truth. Never has, never will. Are you willing to hear / speak the truth? “Have I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” — Galatians 6:16