Truth is a hard concept in our postmodern culture. We have been taught that there is no such thing as truth, unless of course we're talking about your truth and my truth. Truth, we hear, is subjective; it depends on who you are and what your experiences are. And no one has the "right" to tell you a truth that doesn't seem true to you.
It seems overwhelming for a people of truth. How are we supposed to tell Good News to those who don't want to hear it because it isn't true (yet) to their own experience? How are we supposed to be honest about who God is and how amazing grace is if there's no foundation for hearing or listening to anything that contradicts what your own heart already tells you?
How do you preach truth in a world that is hostile to the very notion of it?
It may be that ours is the first generation to articulate so thoroughly our rejection of truth as a principle in and of itself, but man's rejection of and aversion to truth go much further back than just our generation. We are a people who, from the very beginning, have had a strange relationship with truth. On one hand, we love it - when we are the ones preaching it and when others are the ones being judged by it. On the other hand, we don't really want to hear it ourselves, and we don't want to judged by it.
This is why Israel had such a problem with false prophets; nobody wanted to listen to the real ones. Nobody wanted to hear the real truth.
I was reading recently in Amos, and there's a part where the king tells the prophet that he needs to take his prophecy elsewhere. In fact, he needs to go to such-and-such a people and speak his truth to them.
Embedded in this is the very thing that we're talking about, two realities that we, as human beings, can't seem to shake: take your truth elsewhere because 1) those other persons are the ones who need to hear it and 2) I can't tolerate being judged by it.
Isn't this us? Isn't this still the world we're living in?
We speak a word of truth, and our world says, nuh-uh. No. Nope. We speak against rape, and the rapists say, "What about the murderers?" So we speak against murder, and murderers say, "What about the abortionists?" So we speak against abortion, and the abortionists say, "What about your own priests/ministers?" So we speak against our own sin, and the Christians say, "What about the world?" So we speak against the world...
It's not that the truths that we're speaking are not true; it's that the persons who are most affected by our words don't want to hear them. So they remind us of all the others words we could say but aren't, and then, they tell us that we must not be real prophets because we don't speak "full" truth. Now, we are, of course, speaking full truth; we're just not speaking whole truth. Because the truth is that when you're confronting one measure of brokenness, you have to be specific. You have to narrow it down to what you're actually talking about and not get distracted by what you're not talking about, even when it's just as devastating and heartbreaking as anything else.
But that's what the world does. That's what it's always done. The minute you try to speak truth, the world will try to shift your focus, then shift it again, until you're so lost in the brokenness of our fallen human condition that the truth you have feels too complicated and, sadly, too small to address any of it.
And then, you might start to think the world is right. Maybe God isn't the answer.
Yet, look at how Amos responds. The king tells him to take his truth somewhere else, to go talk to those other persons who really need to hear what Amos has to say and to tell them what the king really thinks they need to hear. And Amos continues to stand there and simply say, "No thanks. This is the truth that God gave me. This is the truth that I have. And this is the place God told me to speak it. So...here I am, and I'm not going anywhere. This truth isn't for someone else; it's for you. It's not up to me if you listen, but it's up to me if I speak. So here, I speak."