Speaking Truth to Power – Are we doing it right?

icon-of-jonah-and-the-whale-juliet-venterWe all know the story of the prophet Jonah. Jonah was sent by God to speak truth to power in the city of Ninevah, but Jonah didn’t want to. First, you don’t usually make many friends speaking truth to power. Secondly, Jonah had the wrong attitude. If he was going to speak truth to power, then he wanted God to punish the offenders. The last thing he wanted to happen was for the powerful to hear his words, see the error of their ways, and change.  So as the story goes, instead of taking on this assignment, he fled to Tarshish and ended up being swallowed by a whale on the way. God rescued him from the whale and sent him back to Nineveh where Jonah finally spoke truth to power. The people listened so . . .

God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jon 3:10-4 NRS)

When we speak truth to power, we need to hope for their transformation not their punishment – we need to speak in a way that seeks their well-being not their calamity – a way that welcomes them into the grace and mercy of God.  Could we be failing at “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” because we are angry and don’t love the powerful in the ways that God loves them?

May Lent be a time of speaking truth to power with an attitude that seeks the well being of the powerful, as well as, the powerless.


April is a progressive Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs.  


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