Herman Edwards recently said of a certain sports figure fallen into scandal: “[He] needs a friend and he has needed a friend who would tell him the truth…that’s what friends do.” In Galatians 4:16, Paul asks those Christians, “Am I your enemy because I tell you the truth?” amidst his criticism that they have so quickly turned away from the doctrine of Christ. Far too often, we resent those who tell us what we need to hear, and we value those who tell us what we want to hear.
Those Who Vilified Truth
- In I Kings 12:4 records the people of Israel coming to the new king Rehoboam to lighten the load placed upon them by his father Solomon. His father’s councilors advised him to heed their request, but his peers advised him to make their burden al the heavier. He listens to those he wants to hear, and his actions result in the nation splitting in two.
- I Kings 21:20, Elijah comes to Ahab after the wicked king illegally and murderously acquires a piece of property. Previously, in I Kings 18, Ahab blames Elijah for the drought from God. He counts Elijah as an enemy for the truth Elijah delivers. Ahab values more those who tell him what he wants to hear.
- In I Samuel 20:28-33, Saul turns against his own son for pointing out the fallacy of Saul’s vendetta against David. He goes so far as to attempt murdering his own son. Jonathan tells Saul what he needs to hear, but the king turns on him for not telling him what he wants to hear.
- Throughout his book, Jeremiah battles against prophets who tell the people what they want to hear. His love for the people of Jerusalem drives him to weep in Jeremiah 8:21-9:1. He calls on them to distrust the lie that the presence of the temple assures them safety in chapter 7:4-7. Yet he is mocked, threatened, and contradicted throughout his ministry.
- In John 14, Jesus explain Herods’ fear that He is John the Baptist returned. Herod and his wife resents John’s stance that their marriage is unlawful. Because he tells them what they need to hear rather than they want to hear, John loses his life.
Valuing Truth and the Truthful
In contrast to these examples, Paul writes of a contention between Peter and him in Galatians 2:11. In this case, Peter is clearly in the wrong, and Paul corrects him for his hypocrisy. After this conflict, Acts 15 records the Jerusalem congregation gladly receiving Paul and his companions, and Peter would have been a member of this group. Later in the chapter, they side together against false teaching. Later in Peter’s life, he would call Paul a beloved brother in II Peter 3:15. Instead of begrudging Paul for telling him what he needs to hear, Peter grows in Christ, and he counts Paul as a friend.
I Corinthians 3:1, 5:1-2, 6:5, 11:17, 15:34 – these verses and more from this book reveal Paul sharing some hard truths to the Christians in Corinth. Their reaction to his chastisement in II Corinthians 7. They demonstrate godly sorrow, and they repent from their shortcomings. They do not harbor animosity or resentment. Instead, they value Paul for telling them what they need to hear.
All of this boils down to our reaction to Jesus. In John 14:15, Jesus plainly says that those who love Him keep His commandments. Luke 13:3-5 records Jesus speaking of the necessity of repentance from our wrongdoings. Time and again in His ministry, He tells us things we may not want to hear, but they are things we need to hear. We are His friend if we open our ears to His truth and heed His word. We are each other’s friends if we guide and listen to each other on the road to Heaven.
lesson by Tim Smelser