Be True on the Inside

Buried somewhere in our memories of school is a novel that was on many students reading list, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.  It’s the story of a pious, young puritan clergyman who becomes secretly involved with a beautiful young woman, Hester Prynne.  Nature takes its course and the woman gives birth to a child.  But no father is in evidence, and no marriage vows have been pronounced.  So the tight little Puritan village in which she lives labels her “adulteress,” and casts her out of church and friendship and out of all kindly contact.  She is alone, with the scarlet letter “A” sewn upon her dress.

Meanwhile, her secret lover, the Reverend Dimmesdale, continues to rise in the esteem of his people.  From far and wide they come to marvel at the purity of his soul, and to listen to his beautiful words.  But he has no words for Hester and no embrace for his fatherless child.  The years pass.  Hester and her child survive – alone.  But Dimmesdale slowly crumples from within; crushed by the weight of the lie he is living.  At the height of his career he is dying.  At the very last moment – with the whole town gathered round – he takes Hester to himself and for the first time embraces his little child.  Then he dies.

And what moral are we to take from this long, sad story? Hawthorne sums it up in two words – which he repeats three times: “Be true. Be true. Be true.”

I wonder if that isn’t the essence of Jesus’ last words to us before ascending to heaven.  “Go out to the whole world,” he says to us all, “and tell the good news.”  Now in its literal sense, telling means using words, talking.  And who can deny that talking is important if we want to share good news?  But talk is cheap; and, as the Reverend Dimmesdale reminds us, it always has been. So if we have any hope of following Jesus’ command to proclaim the good news, we’re going to have to do a lot more than talk, a lot more than just tell the truth.  We’re going to have to be true. Be true on the inside.  And from that truthfulness on the inside will spring forth not only words that are true, but deeds that are true.  Deeds that, in their rightness and goodness, shout to the whole world what really matters, deeds that proclaim to the whole world that God is here, living in the hearts of the people.

God has given us an immense mission, telling the good news to all the world.  So we truly need to pray for one another:


May God help us become true on the inside, so that every word and deed of ours may speak the good news till that day when God will speak it to us all face to face.  Amen.