I SPENT A lot of my childhood avoiding any kind of conflict, as far as possible. That made journalism something of an unlikely career choice—after all, chances are you are going to end up offending someone (if you are doing things halfway right).
I have never gotten used to being unpopular for having written something that someone didn’t like. However, I have learned to live with the discomfort a little more easily. One person I thank for that—as unlikely as it may seem—is Pontius Pilate.
Admittedly, his isn’t a name you’d typically associate with journalistic principles. He is, after all, the man who squirmed and asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
However, he somewhat redeemed himself in my eyes when he later stood his ground against the Jewish leaders.
Having handed Jesus over to the mob, Pilate wrote this and affixed it to the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” He even wrote it in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, to ensure it would reach as wide an audience as possible.
It must have created a bit of a stir, because John 19:21 notes, “Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “He said, I am the King of the Jews.”’”
People in power often try to use their positions to get the media to tone things down or otherwise amend their reporting to suit their liking. Full marks to Pilate then, for his answer, in the next verse: “What I have written, I have written.”
The father of the Reformation, Martin Luther, would echo that in 1521 when he was called to account for his critique of the church’s excesses: “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”
Sometimes all you can do is stick to your words.