Posted by George Morrison

The Taking of Oaths             Word on the Week                          25th July 2020.

The Government pledged this week to replace the taking of oaths in Courts with “a statement of truth”.    We wish them well with this new effort to extract the truth from the accused, witnesses and all who take the stand.    There has always been the impression of inadequacy, rather than effectiveness, that swearing on the Bible had in extracting truth!

In the Bible we find the 3rd commandment is allocated to truth-telling; “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus Chapter 20 verse 7). 

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus focused on the meaning behind the 3rd commandment which was not to tell lies then attempt to make them ‘sound authentic’ by using the Lord’s name.  

Jesus commented on this in his sermon when he said “you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all… all you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (St Matthew chapter 5 verses 33 to 37).

It is good to see Atheist Ireland on the same page as Jesus when it comes to oaths taken in the Lord’s name.   In a recent letter to the press they want rid of them!   Let’s look for a moment at the reason for oaths.   They are to put the person taking the oath under greater constraints to tell the truth.   There is a penalty available if the oath is broken by lying.   This is the crime of perjury but it is seldom invoked.

It is more common the hear oaths in the form of swear words.   These often incorporate the Lord’s name or the more basic bodily functions.    They can form part of a person’s vocabulary from their early years and expand till they become almost indispensable.

When a person comes to believe in Christ the Holy Spirit is involved in making adjustments in the areas of thought, word and actions.   One of the things that comes from the realisation that Jesus died for you is that you don’t want to let him down.    One of the easiest ways to do just that is like St Peter with oaths and curses (St Matthew Chapter 26 verse 74).   Perhaps that’s why cleaning up the new believer’s language is one of the first signs of the Holy Spirit’s work (Galatians Chapter 5 verse 22).

Whatever the Government puts in place of religious oaths the follower of Jesus will answer to a higher power and will let his/her Yes be Yes and No be No.