Tell the Truth in Love

Same Columbanus, different king, different outcomes.

Columbanus (19)

But he [Columbanus] remained some time with the king, and called his attention to several abuses, such as could hardly fail to exist at a king’s court. Chlotar promised to correct everything according to Columban’s command, for he zealously loved wisdom, and rejoiced in the blessing which he had secured.

  - Jonas, Life of St. Columban[1]

What profit the gifts of princes? Or the banquets of a rich table?
What delight shall there be in remembering the joys of past life,
When finally the closure of the last age has come?
He who, while life flies, meditates these with watchful mind,
Scorns avarice and avoids empty honours.
And why to apply their minds to earthly cares
Do mortals wish? Why follow filthy gains?

  - Columbanus, “Verses of St. Columban to Sethus”[2]

O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance;
Your holy temple they have defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.
The dead bodies of Your servants
They have given as food for the birds of the heavens,
The flesh of Your saints to the beasts of the earth.
Their blood they have shed like water all around Jerusalem,
And 
there was no one to bury them.
We have become a reproach to our neighbors,
A scorn and derision to those who are around us.


  - Psalm 79.1-4

Columbanus was a servant in the mold of Asaph. Asaph, we recall, was appointed by King David to be head of musicians, singers, and all worship in the temple which David was planning to build (1 Kgs. 25.1-8). He would only have begun to fulfill that appointment once the temple was built in the days of Solomon.

By the time Solomon’s reign was under way and flourishing, rottenness had already begun to set in at the royal court. Outwardly, the nation was flourishing (1 Kgs. 10), but inwardly, Solomon’s heart was compromised, as he made political and spiritual accommodation for his many wives (1 Kgs. 11). Asaph saw through this, and in the songs he wrote for use in worship, he sought to reveal the truth of what was happening in Israel, but – Emily Dickinson-like – to “tell it slant.” 

Columbanus was rather more straightforward. Even though he had already been exiled from one Kingdom for confronting the royal court with its sins, he did not hesitate to do so again when Chlotar asked him to remain in Neustria on the Frankish coast and establish a foundation there. Columbanus declined the offer, but for as long as he stayed in that part of Gaul, he spoke his mind to the king, and the king listened and acted accordingly.

Jesus said that one reason people hated Him – and will hate us – is because we expose their sins by our lives and words (Jn. 15.18-25). We must not ever back down from speaking the truth, but we must always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4.15).

In our Personal Mission Fields are people who have devoted themselves to the things of this life only: avarice, empty honors, profits, rich tables, and other fleeting goods and sinful accommodations. Even among those who believe in Jesus, many are given more to the desires of the flesh and the delights of the world than those of the age to come. We must guard our own souls against such compromises lest, as Asaph suggests, we become prisoners, not to outward enemies but to base desires (Ps. 79.11), and live like those who are still dead in their trespasses and sins (Ps. 79.11).

We must pray for our fellow believers, that they will listen to the convicting words of the Spirit as He calls them to acknowledge their sin, and repent, and that God will have mercy on us and them, that we may increase in His salvation for the glory of His Name (Ps. 79.8, 9). And when it is necessary for us to speak the truth to them, or to anyone in our Personal Mission Field, we must seek the grace of God to help us do so.

Chlotar saw in Columbanus something that he wanted for himself: wisdom, peace, spiritual courage and fortitude, and the joy of God’s blessings. Let the people in our Personal Mission Fields see these in us, and many of them – though presently entangled in the gewgaws of this world – will desire true spiritual life and all its benefits as well.

 And when the opportunity comes to tell the truth to those around you, do so – whether straight or slant – in the love of Jesus and the power of His Word.

Psalm 79 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
O God the nations all Your inheritance have spoiled!
Your City have they ruined, Your temple they have soiled!
Your servants’ bodies all to the birds of heav’n are thrown;
The flesh of all Your faithful the jaws of beasts now own.

The blood of faithful servants like water flows around;
And none are there Your saints to commit into the ground.
Our neighbors mock and scorn us: How long, O Lord, how long?
How long will You be angry and scorn our mournful song?

Pour out, O Lord, Your wrath on all who deny Your Name;
Who trust You not nor seek You, bring down to deepest shame!
For they have with great rancor Your precious saints devoured;
Lay waste their habitation at this late dreadful hour.

Why should the nations mock and say, “Where now is their God?”
Let there be known among them harsh vengeance for our blood!
Hear, Lord, our groans and sighing; preserve us by Your pow’r.
For we are fairly dying each day and hour by hour.

Reproach those who reproach us with judgment sevenfold!
Let thanks and praise to You by Your precious flock be told.
We are Your sheep, O Savior, we thank You all our days.
Look on us with Your favor as we declare Your praise.

Let me always speak Your truth, O Lord, and do so in love. Today, as I go out to serve You, help me…

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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe PsalterScripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1]Jonas, p. 29

[2]Walker, p. 189

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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