truth telling and trouble making

In yesterday's post on being radical I noted that the word "radical" comes with pre-existent positive or negative voltage and I noticed that the word often suggests either truth-teller or trouble maker. Soon two responses came - from Peter and from Lorraine - reminding me that those are not necessarily opposites but that truth-telling regularly makes trouble! Yes. Truth-tellers in families and in churches and in nations break open systems stories and secrets. In doing so they cause trouble - especially for those who benefit from the way things are and from keeping the secret.

I wonder how to know when trouble making is the result of truth-telling and when it is simply harmful. Not all trouble making is the result of truth-telling. Sometimes it is just mischievous. Nor does all truth-telling cause trouble. There are times when a troubled situation or soul breaks through from confusion to clarity when the truth is told. I see it when tears of recognition and affirmation appear in response to a sermon or a gospel word shared in conversation.

Yet the gospel never encounters us without causing trouble. I recall Will Willimon's assertion that the three point sermons of his childhood were always one point short of the truth. Those sermons followed a threefold plot: 1. You are a sinner. 2. You have a problem. 3. Jesus is the answer. But, notes Willimon, there is a final point which too often goes unsaid: 4. Now, you really have a problem!

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