Christians Love Their Enemies With Truth
Keeping the 9th Commandment in the Way of Our Lord
Today in God’s law we are looking at one that is somewhat most dearest to our interests. Of all the things in life we desire for ourselves it is that others might think well of us. To have a bad reputation is to ruin whatever first impression we may give when being introduced to someone for the first time. It also means that folks might give you a squinty eye when they see you out in public. This is especially the case when you don’t even know why people are treating you differently. There is no pain like finding out that someone is spreading rumors which concern something you have not done, or completely misrepresent an action you took that is the total opposite of what is being portrayed. The key identifier of the second half of the ten commandments is the love of neighbor. To love your neighbor means to love yourself first. If you want people to think well of you than it is probably a good idea for you to ensure that what you say about someone is both true and accurate to reality. We confess what we believe about Jesus Christ by how we treat one another. If you cannot keep the good name of a friend, how can you expect others to do the same for you?
That’s what this law is all about. Here are the Q/A’s for this week:
Q. 143: Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Q. 144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are: the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbours; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practising of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.
The Christian faith is built on truth, because our God is truth. Words like true and false only have meaning because of the Triune God of the Bible. In the song of Moses we hear him say, “For I proclaim the name of the Lord: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” (Deut. 32:3-4).
We’ve talked a good bit in this portion of the catechism about what the purpose of the Lord is in granting us in His grace a list of rules for us to follow. God desires for His people to be like Him. Our goal every day should be to be more and more conformed to the image we were made to witness to. In a sense the ninth commandment shows as much as any other whether we are taking that call seriously.
God never lies, never repents, never does wrong. That is by definition who God is. When He speaks to us through His prophets He never hides Himself from us nor leads us astray. In Ecclesiastes recently we had Solomon tell us that our vows and oaths should be kept because our Lord has kept His word to us. The apostle James says to let our yes be yes, and our no be no. As you look at the requirements of the ninth commandment there is an interplay between that which we do to and for ourselves and that which we do to and for others. We are not only to promote truth between man and man, but ensure that it is preserved as well. We are to do the same for our own name as we do for our neighbor. It is not possible for us to keep this statute by preserving our own name if we are not also in the same breath ensuring the same for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Part of the way we keep it is laid out in the second question by noting that we are to have a charitable esteem of our neighbor. What that means is that we always assume the best, not out of ignorance, but out of love. The word here is not seeking that we be naive. We are to act out of knowledge, and always with the truth in mind. However, even when Saul is seeking to destroy him David is never belligerent towards the king, even though he has opportunity and the world would say he has the right to. Our interest here is that we treat all men, even those worthy of scorn, with grace and mercy. That is why the explanation given above notes our call to discourage talebearing.
On that front it has been said that the easiest way to kill gossip (an obvious violation of the law) is to not spread it yourself. If someone in your social circle is willing to tell tales of someone else you can rest assured that they will most certainly do so about you if given the opportunity. Tattle-tales get their jollies off the supposed miseries of others, and that is because they hate, and do not love. They desire bad because they themselves are not desiring the good things of God. Christians are to be always seeking the light and the good, and not dwelling in the morass of glorifying in other’s bad fortune.
In closing, there is a lot in the ninth commandment that will be explained more in a few weeks as we consider the next portion of the catechism. The central thing we should be taking from the required items that God calls us to do in being made more like Himself is that what we would want for us we should return unto others. We cannot complain about the way others treat us if we return serve either to them or to others. There is a pernicious lie that we tell ourselves that it is okay to be rude toward men and women who have acted poorly toward us. That is the type of action the devil loves. He hopes and prayers for division between the Lord’s people especially. Rather than to allow yourself to be snared in that trap, bring honey and sugar to bear (no pun intended) for the barbs of vinegar tossed in your direction by those who seek your home. Overcome evil with love.
Here is a word more:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church
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