Headline: Rules Without Exceptions

Posted on: 2014-09-10

All human beings need help
Muhammad Ali, the self-acclaimed “greatest” (and most self-assured) boxer of all time, had boarded an airplane that was about to take off. Ali ignored the usual pre-flight prompt and did not fasten his seat belt. A flight attendant came to ask him to buckle up and he replied in his usual boisterous manner “Superman don’t need no seatbelt”. The attendant replied him in kind, “Mr. Ali, Superman don’t need no airplane either”. Ali laughed and then complied. As he had learnt, there are simply some rules of life that no one, no matter how high up should ignore. Such are the rules which Jesus Christ tied to the love of God and the love of the neighbor when he shrunk all the commandments into that memorable teaching. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22: 37-39). Whether for interpersonal relationship, community living or the social health of a nation, such rules expressed are sine qua non, indispensable, to achieve success.
Admonish one another in truth
Truth is one of the greatest manifestations of true love. We have often heard the saying, “Speak the truth and shame the devil” but putting Satan to shame is not the only benefit of speaking the truth. What, anyway really is truth? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches thus: “Truth as uprightness in human action and speech is called truthfulness sincerity or candour. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation and hypocrisy” (CCC. 2468). The apostle Paul once said: “We must keep a clear conscience towards God and towards men (Acts.24:16). In God’s opinion, by speaking the truth we save our own lives. Prophet Ezekiel brought out the importance of speaking the truth for the sake of personal salvation through courageous correction. Amplifying the words of God, he said:. “You, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.  If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked man to turn from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but you will have saved your life” (Ez. 33:7-8).
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
The eighth commandment given to Moses prohibits the bearing of false witness. Properly understood, it is meant to deter God’s people from affirming whatever they know to be false about anyone.  Not that those who need to hear the truth would gladly welcome it. Agnes Repplier said it well, “A world of vested interests is not a world which welcomes the disruptive force of candor”. The psalmist exalts the man with a pure heart who speaks the truth “O Lord who will dwell in your tent and reside on your holy mount? Those who walk blamelessly and do what is right, who speak truth from their heart and control their words…” (Ps. 15: 1-3).
Get behind me Satan!
Of course, few things in this world shock more than the naked truth. Jesus, nonetheless lived his life by the truth. It is in him that the truth of God is made manifest. Not for nothing he once declared “I am the way the truth and the life”. In order to show his disciples how important it is to follow his path, declared: ”You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn.8:32). He practiced what he preached.  It was not easy for Simon Peter when Jesus rebuked him sharply in the presence of the other disciples. It was the most inauspicious time for Peter to earn himself such a damaging accolade, “Satan”, right after he had been praised for knowing who the savior was. But Peter really needed to hear the truth. That “get behind me Satan” elixir was a bitter but temporary medicine to establish and protect the more enduring and pleasant “it is not flesh and blood that has shown you this but my father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).  Jesus also stood up for the truth before Pilate: “For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of the truth hears my voice” (Jn. 18:37).
When shall the truth set us free?
It is obvious that our land is one where precepts of truth and honesty have been overtaken by sycophancy, eye service, double speak and outright deceit. Have we not been reaping abundant fruits of falsehood and corruption? Far too many Nigerians suffer from chronic “truth decay” and would rather utter sweet things and express falsehood irrespective of the circumstance. No area of our life is spared; media, art, politics, religion, business, family academics or labour. There are many other offences against the truth which need attention namely: false witness, perjury, detraction, calumny, flattery, adulation, bragging, and boasting. All these compromise the person, family, community and even the nation. Speak always the truth, is a basic rule of righteous living, community building which takes no exception. Many Nigerians today live by miracles but the greatest miracle which we need, is to have majority of Nigerians choose truth over falsehood and sacrifice even their comfort and status to promote it. That would indeed be the day of our freedom and of our salvation.