I’m doing jury service at the moment. And the courts are full of spiritual connotations. If it’s not bowing in reverence, or calling judges ‘Lord’ or ‘Worship’ it’s the very presence of an advocate interceding on behalf of someone else. Mind you, it’s hardly a surprise that an environment built to house truth and justice should remind me of God.
However, what’s most striking is the spiritual barometer of trustworthiness, the swearing of an oath on the Bible.
‘I swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully try the defendant(s) and give a true verdict (true verdicts) according to the evidence.’
All those on my jury chose to do this. I didn’t.
And you may think that’s quite strange given that I am a Christian, that I believe in a personal relationship with God and that the Bible is a phenomenal tool for equipping us to live to our potential (actually irrespective of whether you have faith or not).
I don’t know whether the 11 people who swore on the Bible would describe themselves as Christians. If they wouldn’t then it seems a little strange to start court proceedings with what amounts to a falsehood (not that this is an accusation of perjury!).
It might make the Daily Mail weep but I just don’t understand the reason for having a spiritual barometer of trustworthiness. And the reason for that is because Jesus tells his followers that oath taking, that swearing by heaven or by God isn’t necessary.
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most well-known chunks of Jesus’ ministry (and another one of those moments in the Life of Brian where the two figures are demarcated). In amongst the Beatitudes and a warning about our thoughts rather than just our acts Jesus talks about oaths.
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. (Matthew 5:33-36)
And why shouldn’t, as followers of Jesus, we take oaths? Because Christians should ‘let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one’.
Part of being a Christian is being trustworthy, of having integrity, of being credible and living a life that reflects the person of Jesus (or tries to). This is what Jesus is saying. He’s saying if you follow my teachings then you don’t need to swear oaths to make a promise. If you promise to do something, why would you do anything other than keep it?
When I said I was affirming there was slight confusion about what that meant. Someone said it was “for those who aren’t religious”. Obviously, for me, it was actually for completely the opposite reason.
If the court system was to lose the spiritual barometer for trustworthiness there would be OUTRAGE and it would be further evidence of a creeping secularism. Would it? Wouldn’t it actually be Christians recognising that it’s in conflict with what we believe and for those that don’t have a relationship with God, or even any faith in Him, creates a situation that may actually ring hollow?