“The truth is out there.”
So says the TV series The X-files.
And the Truth is indeed out there, but what John the Baptist proved by his life is that the Truth needs truth-bearers to stand up and proclaim it. Only if those who know the Truth proclaim the Truth will the Truth be known to a false and lying world.
We have a problem with the truth, though. It begins early with lying. As a parent, I’ve asked the same questions of my kids that parents have asked for millennia before me, questions like “Who did it?” “Why did you do it?” and “Why did you lie about doing it?” (There sure seems to a lot of “it” that happens in a house with kids!)
For children, lying typically happens because they don’t want to get in trouble. It’s ironic that so much of the time they get in more trouble for lying than for what they did wrong originally. But lying seems so intuitive, so natural (to the Old Man), that in spite of intellectual reasons not to lie, children do it.
We also lie because we want to feel better about ourselves. We’ve probably all known at least one kid (of either the child or adult varieties!) who tells whoppers because he is looking for positive attention. Others lie not because they want to avoid getting in trouble but because they want to take something from you. How many scams these days are based on lies, all to get you to part with your hard-earned money?
The human race has a problem with the Truth, Jesus Christ, as well. A lot of us don’t believe in Him or accept Him as the salvation of the world. But even Christians sometimes have trouble with the Truth. I don’t just mean that we’re tempted to lie or distort the truth sometimes (which is true and is a problem.) I mean that we are not always willing to stand up and speak the truth about the Truth.
The definition of courage I offer to my kids is “doing what’s right when you don’t feel like doing it.” By this definition, or any other definition of courage, John the Baptist was courageous. We might well call him John the Courageous. Anyone who can walk out of the wilderness and into civilization, saying “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” has got a certain requisite courage. I’m sure that from the beginning there were a lot of people who were not thrilled with John or his message. I’m sure he had hecklers, protesters, fingers in his face, people spitting on him, and threats of violence.
John’s greatest moment of courage came when he spoke the truth about Herod and Herodias and their adulterous marriage. Though proclaiming the advent of the Messiah may have been a more important truth, because of the immediate danger involved, telling the truth about Herod and Herodias required more courage.
John did not shirk from speaking the truth but instead faithfully acted as a prophet in his culture.
One of the worst problems Christians have with the Truth is in refusing to proclaim it when they should. God has not called us to wear a camel’s hair coat and leather belt, eat locusts and wild honey, and storm into the downtown area yelling “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
But He has commanded us to be prophets, which means that we are to faithfully proclaim God and His Word as we have opportunities to do so. In a culture where it is still relatively easy to speak about Jesus Christ, we seem to have a shame or embarrassment in doing so. After all, we wouldn’t want the girls in the office or the guys at the country club to think we’re fanatics. I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable – especially myself!
So for this reason and many others, we chicken out.
So what’s the big deal? So what if I miss a small chance to tell someone about Jesus Christ? There will be other opportunities, and there are other people out there who are doing it.
So what if John the Baptist didn’t stand up and tell Herod he was being sinful? Herod and Herodias were going to sin anyway, right? And John would have gotten to be free and still live. This way, he could have told many other people about the Messiah, right? (I’d better stop: I’m starting to believe my own lies!)The “So what?” is that John would have made himself a liar, a false prophet, a coward, and a rebel against God. That’s a pretty impressive list, isn’t it? But we, too, are in danger of becoming these things if we refuse to testify to Jesus Christ and His truth. If you know the truth and refuse to speak it, then in some sense you are a false prophet – false to God’s holy purpose for you. You are a coward because you refuse to do the right thing because of how it will make you feel. Isn’t this the same reason children lie – because they want to avoid the pain of consequences?
Worst of all, by refusing to speak the truth when God has told us to, we rebel against Him by disobeying Him. We are in danger of making Him out to be a liar. “Hath God said?” “Did He really tell me to share Jesus Christ with others?”
I’m a Bears fan, but one of the reasons I wasn’t too upset when the Colts beat them in the 2007 Super Bowl is because of Tony Dungy. Did you hear what he said after he’d won the Super Bowl? Everyone wanted to make a big deal that he and Lovie Smith were the first two African-American coaches to make it to the Super Bowl. But Tony Dungy, both before and after the game, wanted to make God and his faith a bigger deal.
This took a hidden courage. There were probably people pleading with him not to say the “J” word or the “G” word. He could have been tempted to say to himself that it wasn’t worth catching flak over. He could have cared so little that it wouldn’t have even entered his mind that God had anything in the world to do with football or his winning.
That kind of spontaneous impulse to speak of the God we love is what so many find compelling when Christians from the Third World come and speak here in America. It’s the voice of authority; it’s the voice of courage; it’s the voice of love.
You have an opportunity every day to be courageous. You have an opportunity every day to be a prophet. It may be in the act of giving thanks, it may be in training children to know God, and it may be in your workplace or among your friends. One day it may be on a very large and public stage.
But God is calling you to be a courageous prophet who faithfully proclaims His Word.
If you do, you will find the following truth: that cowardice begets cowardice and courage begets courage.
Prayer: O God, who raised up John the Baptist to prepare a perfect people for Your Son; fill Your people with the joy of His grace, and direct the minds of all the faithful in the way of peace and salvation. Grant that as John was martyred for the Truth, so we may energetically profess our faith in You, proclaim Your Word, and lead others to the Way, the Truth, and Life. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
What opportunities do you have in your life to proclaim Jesus Christ? Consider the following:
1. openly and naturally speaking to friends and co-workers about your Christian faith
2. helping to teach young people to know the Lord better
3. encouraging other Christians in the Truth
4. when the occasion arises, giving the reason why you believe or act a certain wa
Resolution: I resolve to act more faithfully as a courageous prophet of God. I resolve to spend some time reflecting today on how courageous I’ve been and how cowardly I’ve been.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson