Recently, I’ve been reading a book called, The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations, by Frank Honeycutt. There are several strengths to this book–such as writing style, fresh takes on familar texts, etc. However, it was the title of the book that drew me to it. Telling the truth in awkward or painful situations is a vitally important subject for God’s people and minister’s in particular.
Few people find themselves in more tempting situations to tell 90% of the truth while leaving out the last 10% than pastors. Because it is difficult to remain non-anxious presence in ministry, pastors find themselves tempted to shave the truth–to do what we think is protection of the person. Often, it’s simply cowardess disguised as grace. The other side of the coin is the temptation to tell people “what we really think of them” out of anger, bitterness or revenge. That’s not really truth…that truth clothed in rudeness or anger. True Truth-telling (how’s that for the department of redundancy department) must be a characteristic of God’s people.
Granted, there are different ways of telling the truth. As Honeycutt writes, “Pastors often need to tell the truth in creative ways—in the pulpit, in a counseling session, in the classroom—so that the ways of Jesus creep up on and even surprise people in manageable doses they can assimilate and understand.”
But truth is always grace. Not telling the truth is never grace. Grace without truth is sentimental dishonesty. Jesus was Truth. So, God’s people are truth-tellers and truth-livers. This applies both to sermons and to conversations. The pulpit is a witness stand and that stand goes with us when we speak to people about their lives.
As Honeycutt writes:
“Saint Paul asks of the church in Galatia, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). One parishioner stormed out of my office many years ago with the words, “I thought you were here to serve this parish!” It’s a common confusion. The parish indeed calls a pastor. But we serve Jesus, always Jesus, for the sake and health of the people of God.”
It’s something for all Christians to think about–that thin but real line between being nice and being honest. These are not mutually exclusive, but they are different.
***Note, this post augmented and adapted from a previous post.