Vol. 6, No. 10
~ Page 17 ~
The word play of the media and the political world is ever intriguing. Much ado was made when the National Security Advisor of the present administration agreed and was allowed to testify under oath and publicly before the 9/11 Commission. Inherent in all the attention given this landmark case was the implication that there was much more to be expected from the qualifications "under oath" and "publicly." Private testimony without an oath, it was inferred, could not be trusted.
Then, other officials testified privately and without an oath. The reports led listeners to believe there was something lesser and even sinister about such testimony. Without an oath, would people really tell the truth? Without being in public, would they be more apt to hedge on the full story?
Perhaps. But the point of this article is neither to question the motives of either the media or the politicians, nor accuse anyone on either side of those volatile issues of any malice or perjury. Rather, the whole affair calls to mind a very relevant biblical principle.
Christians, one should observe, should always be considered under oath. Whether or not a verbalized oath is taken, or a hand is placed on a Bible or a "so help me God" is uttered, Christians ought to be people who tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Consider the following biblical teachings:
Jesus sharply rebuked the Pharisees for regarding some oaths as more binding than others (Matthew 23:16-22). Jesus also taught that such swearing should be unnecessary for his followers. Instead of relying on oaths to prove sincerity, they should be known as people whose "Yes" meant "Yes" and whose "No" meant "No" (Matthew 5:33-37). No, he didn't mean it was always wrong to take an oath in a court of law, for he essentially did so himself (Matthew 26:63-64). He just meant that for people who bind themselves to Christian principles, including that of personal integrity, there should never be any question to those who know them that they are telling the truth. There should never be a shadow of a doubt about the verity of their stories.
For members of the body of Christ, changed from an old life to a new one (Ephesians 4:17-24), Paul admonished, "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,' for we are members of one another" (Ephesians 4:25).
Besides what it may or may not say about the national figures involved, the hype over the "under oath and in public" issue is telling about society. People expect to be lied to. A number of citizens apparently accept the doctrine that lying is acceptable unless one is subjected to the possibility of personal punishment for the criminal charge of perjury. Put more pertinently, telling the truth is only, in popular mindset, necessary when personal benefit is to be derived. There is no concern for others and the affects a lie might have on them. The criteria for truth telling for a particular individual seems to be: 1) Could the truth benefit me? 2) Could a lie benefit me more? 3) If I tell a lie, is it likely to get me in trouble? 4) If it is, then I'd better hold to the truth as a last resort.
Such a situational ethic is at odds with Paul's principle for Christians in Ephesians 4:25. There, truth telling is a matter of considering one's brother. Further, such an attitude is a bold violation of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12).
A disciple of Christ must always remember his commitment to integrity. Whether or not words are uttered that put one under the authority of the law of the land, a Christian is always under oath. His "Yes" must always mean "Yes." His "No" must always mean "No." "For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Matthew 5:33-37).