The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 3:18-20 (CEV)

18 In many different ways John preached the good news to the people. 19 But to Herod the ruler, he said, “It was wrong for you to take Herodias, your brother’s wife.” John also said that Herod had done many other bad things. 20 Finally, Herod put John in jail, and this was the worst thing he had done.

Speaking Truth To Power

I was 18 years old, and going to Bible School in Edmonton. We had mandatory chapel at 9:00 am every morning. It was the middle of a vicious cold snap in winter, which meant lots of bundling up to go outside, and hoping that you’d remembered to plug your vehicle in the night before to the block heater. And it was a small school of just 40 students, so there was never anywhere to hide.

That morning my three friends were a few minutes late for chapel … again. That morning the president of the school, just a few months retired from being a Col. in the Canadian Armed Forces, was teaching on a passage about grace. That morning, as he wrapped up chapel with announcements, he publicly shamed my three friends for their late arrival.

So that morning I waited until all the students had left for class, and I asked to speak to the president of the school. I said, “excuse me sir, but I couldn’t help but notice that we spent our time in chapel talking about grace, but I don’t think the way you spoke to the girls was very gracious. I don’t understand. When do we qualify for grace?”

He looked at me for a few moments. Then he huffed a little bit and said, “I might just have to call you ‘Mighty Mouse’.” And there and then he walked down to our classroom and apologized in front of the whole class for the way he had spoken to my friends.

John is a wee bit bigger ‘Mighty Mouse’ then I was. Yes, I took on the scary ex-Col. (I’m sure not all colonels are scary, but this one sometimes was!) John, however, took on the regional power of his area – the first line between himself and the Roman Emperor. That’s gutsy. He calls him out for his ethical violations. He calls him out for his personal choices. In the midst of his preaching, in the midst of his call for transformation for the everyday people, John also speaks truth to power.

If we’re going to be part of this Kingdom-breaking-in-party, then apparently sometimes we’re going to have to speak up for justice, speak up for the lost or the least or the hurting or the powerless. Sometimes we’re going to need to speak truth to power.

Sometimes that’s going to be relatively easy. Apparently even acts like being part of making a post go viral, say on the subject of refugees, can be responsible for Canada increasing the number of refugees it will allow in. Even participating financially or practically in our sponsorship of a refugee family is part of speaking truth to power, by saying that the foreigner, the refugee, the last and the lost and the least and the powerless matter to us, and being the type of country that takes in refugees is part of us living out our faith today.

Sometimes it seems like there is a line over which a person becomes too powerful to challenge. Sometimes it seems like there is a system that gets too big and powerful to challenge. John’s example suggests that that isn’t the case. John’s example suggests that the rules apply to the powerful as well as the everyday. John’s example suggests that it can be dangerous – sometimes violently dangerous – to speak truth to power, but that sometimes it’s still the right thing to do.

Journal Questions:

  1. What justice issue have you identified this week during your journaling that you feel passionate about?
  2. How have you seen God in the midst of these issues this week?
  3. What way(s) has God given you that you could be involved in this issue?
  4. What step(s) do you need to take to start?