Unpopular Truth

It seems that no matter what the truth claim or who is making it, the person who’s making it claims it’s unpopular. Usually, I hear something like “This isn’t popular, but the truth isn’t popular.” As though unpopularity is somehow now a measure of truth. Belief in a flat earth is unpopular, but that doesn’t make it true.

Not all that glitters is gold, not all that is unpopular is true, and not all bad things that happen to you while you’re exercising your faith are religious persecution.

We get the idea that because Jesus said we’d undergo persecution for our faith, if we feel we’re undergoing persecution we must be doing the right thing. That’s patent nonsense. People undergo persecution for any number of reasons. For instance, a “pastor” in Arizona is going to jail for starting a church in his backyard. Now see, the city of Phoenix doesn’t have a problem with Michael Salman having a church, just with him violating fire code while doing it.

This is not to argue that truth is popular, but let’s be honest with ourselves: good news is also popular! For example: I just got engaged. I got more likes and comments for that facebook update than for nearly anything else that I’ve ever posted! Jesus came and preached the good news to the poor – and said that it was good news! So what is it about the “good news” that people find so bad? What if the good news doesn’t contain any new bad news? What if we know the bad news already, and it’s bad enough already? What if the good news is that we are loved, without us having to change or do anything to earn that love? What if the good news is better than anything we could ever imagine?

On the other hand, if you pull open MSN or Fox News, you’re likely to hear far more bad news than good. Shock and horror sells. Bad news gets more readership. Bad news sells. And maybe bad news sells because we’re somehow more deeply inclined to believe it. We’re accustomed to it. There is always a catch. The devil is in the details. There’s no free lunch. The large print giveth, and the fine print taketh away. Everybody wants something from you. We live in a world scarred and stained by sin, and bad news feels true to us because it is true. And that is the tragedy in some preaching: we act as though once we become Christians everything changes and the bad news ceases to be true.  We try to act as though we live on Easter Sunday morning and be in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right happy all the time.

But we don’t. We always live somewhere between Good Friday (which Frederick Beuchnher rightly pointed out that before it was good was bad, the worst of all Fridays!) and Resurrection Sunday. Morning hasn’t come. Sometimes it’s dark, and sometimes we can almost see the glimmer of the sunrise over the horizon.

So maybe the truth is unpopular because we think it’s too good to be true.

Or maybe it’s unpopular because we already know what the truth is. Which is to say that we haven’t got a clue what the truth is and are confident that we’ve got a handle on it.

And then Jesus claimed to be the truth. So, for Christians, to know Jesus is to know truth. And then, with Jesus standing before him, Pontius Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Truth is unpopular because most of us can’t recognize truth when it’s standing right in front of us. And because most of us are afraid to look, afraid to open our eyes and realize that the emperor who has no clothes of truth about him is us.

Let us seek the truth.
Which is to say, let us seek Jesus.

And let us remember
that besides unpopular truths,
there are many unpopular lies

and besides the good things that will get us persecuted,
there are many evil things
that we may do
in the name of God
that will get us

About David M. Schell






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