People have largely given up on truth, at least as it touches on the biggest questions of our life, identity, and way of being. Truth seems beyond us – certainly beyond our capacity to preach. Even if we could understand what is true for our personal existence, the thought that we could know truth for others well enough to proclaim it to a gathered group seems to be beyond us. We might have some level of confidence about our own selves, at least until things break down, but we have little hope of identifying such for others. Even when we do think we have some proven insight we could offer, it will likely not be well received if pressed with a tone of too much confidence.
Preachers are different. Preachers have the kind of confidence that would allow them to speak the truth – for themselves and for others also. This is not because of the preacher’s own personal wisdom, but because the preacher believes that God has spoken and is speaking through his Word and by his Spirit. To the degree that preachers speak the things that God is saying, they represent and share the truth. Preachers preach because they have this conviction that God is making himself known in the world, in part through preachers who instruct people in his Word.
This is a tremendous claim. If preachers are correct in this assertion, then everybody ought to listen to them. It is a complicated world and a sure and moral compass ought to be of highest value. Why would we not pay attention to the wisdom of the universe? Why would we prefer our own wisdom when we can only see so far. Why would we not welcome the voice of a preacher?
Perhaps, because we do not trust the preacher. It may be we have heard too many truthless preachers, infatuated with the sound of their own voice and inflated with the arrogance of their opinions. Perhaps listeners just don’t have the faith to believe that God could exist and speak into the world that he created. It is a risky position. If people are wrong in this, they will have seriously miscalculated.
Truth preached ought to bear the ring of truth, wherever it is heard. Humans have been created so as to recognize the voice of their Creator. When we convey the Word of God, it rings a bell for people whose capacity to hear has not too greatly been eroded. People might not like what they hear, but if the message is truthful, it will leave a mark. The people God is calling will hear what he is saying. Whether they will respond is another question.
Preachers ought to trade in truth. Only then will preaching have authority. Truthful preaching has a right to be spoken. Truthful preaching has a need to be heard.