Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taking Oaths...some questions for reflection

On Sunday, June 6, the sermon was based on Matthew 5:34-37. The subject was that of taking oaths. In that message I sought to argue that Jesus' aim was that we be people who are truthful and faithful. Truthful in the commitments or statements we make and faithful to carry them out as we have promised. In short, to be people of our word.

One question that has come up since that message is: Should Christians take oaths in court? And, the related issue of taking oaths of office or for military service. Indeed, I want to thank Mike Eatmon and Bill Hall for bringing up these questions, as I am sure many of you have thought about them.

I do not find either of these kinds of oath taking to be at odds with Jesus' teaching. Jesus' prohibition here is against the improper use of oaths, in particular the attempt to use God's Name to reinforce a promise we never intend to keep. It is a prohibition against using an oath to mask our insincerity or lack of inention to fulfill what we promise.

So, an individual who takes an oath before a court of law and perjurs himself has violated the heart of Jesus' teaching. A soldier who takes an oath to defend the United States when his intention is to do harm to the United States is violating Jesus' teaching. However, when an oath is a demonstration of our intent to be truthful, it does not violate Jesus' teaching. Again, the point Jesus is arguing against is the attempt to use an oath to cover or mask our lack of intention to ever follow through on what we are promising. In the case of a court of law or a soldier, etc, our unwillingness to take the oath would likely signal that we do not intend to be truthful.

Hopefully this will help clarify the intention of Jesus' teaching and address a couple of topics that I did not talk about Sunday morning.


A Mother Remembered said...
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A Mother Remembered said...

I think marriage vows are another instance where oaths are a good thing. What I think is interesting is that God chose to make an oath to Abram/Abraham. I guess he did it because Abram didn't know him yet, and he didn't know yet that God's yes is always yes, so God decided to go the extra mile. What do you think?

Pastor Rob Pochek said...

A Mothered Remembered: God does, indeed, sometimes add a promise to his word...going above and beyond what he "needs" to. The fact that God makes oaths occasionally is evidence that they are not always bad or you point out with marriage oaths / vows. Well said.