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05 September 2014

Speaking truth to power

Speaking truth to power

Starting my first job as a fresh-faced graduate in a hospital, I had no idea that within two months I would be involved in a whistle-blowing exercise. I was surprised to discover that the truth could be an uncomfortable side issue rather than a critical component to medical research. While ultimately the minority voice was heard and fundamental change did occur, the trajectory to set things right was far from straightforward.

The recent account of the Home Office researcher who drew attention to vital statistics and dynamics in her 2002 report into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham reminds us that speaking truth to power is both costly and precious. Twelve year on, the process of setting things right is only just beginning.

We may be the most junior in the organisation or a singular unheard voice;we may find ourselves on the margins, yet we are core to God's plan in which we are well-supported. Jesus speaks about the Spirit convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. God's Spirit, working through his people, guides into all the truth (John 16:1-15). The Spirit who searches all things, including the deep things of God, teaches us to speak with wisdom, bringing out what God has planned all along (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

In his essay Ecclesiology and Ethics in 1 Corinthians, Professor Richard Hays writes:

"[T]he vocation of the community is to become the righteousness of God, to embody God's righteousness (i.e., his covenant faithfulness) in the world. That was the purpose for which Christ died. The theological claim here about the identity of the Church is extraordinary, but it is foundational in Paul's thought. Such a claim is possible only because Paul understands the church to be God's new covenant people, those who bear God's name and disclose his true will and character."

God is at work through the Spirit to create communities that foreshadow and embody the reconciliation and healing of the world. The people of God whose lives are transformed by the reality of the risen Christ and the empowering presence of the Spirit, are well equipped for their prophetic role to speak truth to power, lift up those who are in despair, heal the broken-hearted, and advocate for the marginalised.

So, as we start a new season of work and study, there is nothing mundane about the responsibility we carry as we daily walk with the Spirit. As The Message translation so vividly describes: "The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you're thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God - except that He not only knows what He's thinking, but He lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us" (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).

There is no such thing as a daily grind. There are new responsibilities to explore to bring out what God planned all along. In Jesus and the Spirit we have an advocate who gives us every day the wisdom, insight and ability to fulfill our mandate of speaking truth to power. Whether we speak up for the person bullied at school;for the victims of extreme poverty;for the neglected elderly in our street or our colleague who becomes unjustly marginalised at work, we are part of a community that is meant to be a tangible sign of God's reconciliation of the world.

We present ourselves as a living sacrifice, discerning God's good, pleasing and perfect will. From the life and death of Jesus, Paul and Stephen we know that such worship comes at a price while we will not always see the outworking in this era. The trajectory is far from straightforward, yet the promise of new creation is certain.

God is setting things right. He lets us in on it. Drawing out what He has meant all along, our contribution is both costly and precious.

Marijke Hoek, co-editor Carnival Kingdom and Micah's Challenge