I shall not tremble, nor in God's cause shall I fear the tongues of men, who lie more often than they speak the truth, while we must rather overcome modesty than submit to cowardice, when need compels.
- Columbanus, Letter V to Pope Boniface (Irish, 7th century)
Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
- Psalm 12.1, 2
Sounds familiar, no? Everyone utters lies. Everyone flatters and speaks from a double heart. No one tells the truth. Everyone hedges. Everyone spins.
From our politicians on down it's hard to get a straight answer or a clear word of truth. Why are we so afraid of truth? Jesus said that truth will set us free, but we shy away from the truth and resort to flattery, equivocation, half-truths, trivialities, and spin as our normal mode of conversation.
The world needs some truth-speakers, and if we who possess the Gospel in the earthen vessels of our flesh are not up to the task, then who will do it? The late John Stott wrote urgently back in the '60s about the Church's "guilty silence" when it comes to the Gospel. We're at that same place again, but who will lead us out of it?
God's intention for the Gospel is that it be spoken. And His intention for us is that we speak it. But are we sure we even know the Gospel? If you had to put the Gospel into three sentences, what would you say?
Columbanus preached the Gospel to the spiritually dead members of the Roman Catholic Church in Gaul, and then he wrote to their boss and chided the priests and bishops for being such slackers and ne'er-do-wells.
No, Columbanus was not afraid to speak the truth in a time when lies and flattery everywhere prevailed. We must consider whether we will tremble at the thought of talking with someone about the Gospel, or tremble at the thought of failing to fulfill our Lord's command.
If we tremble at the latter, we will be bold at the former.