101 Q. But may we swear an oath in God’s name
if we do it reverently?
A. Yes, when the government demands it,
or when necessity requires it,
in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness
for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.
Such oaths are grounded in God’s Word^1
and were rightly used by the people of God
in the Old and New Testaments.^2
^1 Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Isa. 48:1; Heb. 6:16
^2 Gen. 21:24; 31:53; Josh. 9:15, 19; 1 Sam.24:[21-22]; 2 Sam. 3:35; 1 Kings 1:29; Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23
102 Q. May we also swear by saints or other creatures?
A legitimate oath means calling upon God
as the only one who knows my heart
to witness to my truthfulness
and to punish me if I swear falsely.^1
No creature is worthy of such honor.^2
^1 2Cor. 1:23
^2 Matt. 5:34-36; James 5:12
LORD’S DAY 37 (Q/A 101-102)
“You are my witness”
Read the story of the patriarch Jacob (Abraham’s son) and how he labored many years to win the hand of Rachel, Laban’s daughter. I’m struck by how Jacob toiled beyond the agreed upon time, with no textual indication that he resisted or justified himself towards Laban. Only after Laban cheats him for the Nth time does Jacob tell Laban how terrible he had been treated. (Genesis 31:1-8ff)
Fast forward to Jacob’s son, Joseph, the one sold to Midianite traders. Upon being entrusted in a leadership post in Potiphar’s (a captain of Pharaoh’s guard) household, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. Joseph resisted but Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph and he was summarily imprisoned. The text said, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love” (Genesis 39:21a)
We cast our common lot with politicians in wanting to self-justify ourselves and try our best to protect our integrity and reputation. Having a well-documented paper-trail is a key to corporate risk management; in other words, make sure your butt is covered at all times and in every way.
Q/A 101-102 speaks to us about keeping our word, living lives of integrity when others aren’t looking, and who will be our witness and guard our integrity and passion.
This is not to say that we don’t keep the paper trail; we do, we should and we must. We have to be wise with the threads of communication we have – emails, text messages, faxes, recordings, archived testimonies.
But there’s something to be said about making our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No.”
We can prove ourselves to be right, but relationships aren’t built and deepened by who is right, or justification of right-ness and the proof of another’s wrong-ness. Can you imagine being in a friendship or any relationship where it was about proving yourself to be right to win an argument or proving the other person to be wrong.
We can heap all of the paper trail and electronic evidence, but what we’ll end up being is a church, community, nation, and world of individuals who seek self-protection, self-justification, in which everyone walks on egg shells.
I think of the thousands who have been wrongly accused, wrong imprisoned, and for some, wrongly placed on death row, and later to be released after decades behind bars. When heaps of evidence were brought before courts decades prior to shuttle them to prison for crimes they didn’t commit, they were left to languish in prison, with the Lord as their witness. Only in time was their innocence confirmed; our mass incarceration and death penalty systems are needing drastic and comprehensive reforms. The great, late Nelson Mandela comes to our mind, whose 25 year imprisonment galvanized his resolve against apartheid and strengthened a movement to free South Africa of that pernicious evil.
To whom do we entrust our reputations, our integrity, our best or worst face?
Q/A 101-102 is a reminder to us that God alone is trustworthy and true. The best we can do, by God’s grace, is to live lives and speak words that are as trustworthy and true, with God as our witness. These two sections evoke thanksgiving in us because it kindles in us the trust that God does have our back, that when we make our “Yes,” “Yes” and our “No,” “No” the pieces will come into place somehow. Therein lies our freedom – we can be free from constant self-justification, we are set free from incessantly proving ourselves right, or winning the argument, or spinning the truth to put our best face or foot forward; we are unshackled from finding the politically-safe angle. We are free to just be.
For God to be our witness, and no one else (not even the smartest, most holy person you can think of), is to confess that the Lord has always and will forever be trustworthy and true; the Lord’s track record of being honest, of being true to who He is, to what He says He will do…every single time, God has shown Himself to be true.
God doesn’t pummel us with being right; we would plead no-contest before the Almighty.
What God does do, because this is a real relationship after all, is call us to trust in Him, to love Him, as He demonstrates again and again His true and trustworthy love for us; God has us covered through and through.
If there was anyone who should have and certainly could have justified and protected himself – Jesus Christ was the One. In Matthew 4, he had the opportunity in the wilderness as Satan presented three chances to prove himself. At the ultimate place of proof, Jesus could have avoided death and called upon the angels to rescue him from the cross.
But it wasn’t about proving himself, nor about proving the rightness of the argument. If it were, it would have ended long before, and Pilate would not have had his way.
Thanks be to God! We can place our trust and confidences in God. God is our witness. Let your Yes be Yes, and your No be No.