There are some issues I’d rather not write about because they’ve reached the point where the level of volatility itself has become the story. When the fact of controversy overtakes the facts underlying the actual controversy, then reasonable discussion becomes more and more unlikely, and dealing with it begins to feel like an exercise in futility that isn’t worth the effort. I much prefer writing about light-hearted, funny stuff. I like exploring intriguing, off-the-beaten-path topics, and I like looking for interesting new perspectives on familiar issues. I like writing about those kinds of things for the same reason that I prefer pizza over an okra and eggplant smoothie. But God has taken care to remind me repeatedly that He didn’t send me into the world to cater to my preferences. My job is to look at this upside-down world through the lens of His truth and report what I see, nevermind how volatile it might be, or how controversial it has become, or how emotionally taxing I might find it.
God Weighs In ~
The allegation of misconduct directed at our current Supreme Court appointee has been the undisputed hot topic this week and is likely to be for some time to come. Entrenched political battle lines were drawn immediately, and opinions about the veracity of the accusation are flying around like fall leaves in a brisk wind. The major problem underlying the whole thing is that beyond those directly involved, no one knows what, if anything, really happened. And while there’s no telling at this point where this exercise in political manipulation will end, the media circus at least motivates taking a “right side up” look at what God has had to say — and when it comes to the human proclivity of reporting on one another’s behavior, God has said a lot. Solomon, for instance, made it clear that the result of our verbal witness can have powerful implications. He said with profound simplicity:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue… (Proverbs 18:21a NKJV)
God codified His concern about the negative potential of “witnessing” by including a direct reference to it in that distinctive collection of divine directives that we call “the Ten Commandments.” Interestingly, instead of just saying “don’t lie,” which is the thought most of us come away with, He issued the command this way:
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16 NKJV)
How He “Really” Feels ~
And lest there be any confusion about how God really feels about false witnesses, in a list specifying attitudes and behaviors that He especially “hates,” He includes this: a false witness who speaks lies. (Proverbs 6:19a NKJV)
The practice also shows up in Jesus’ list of some inherent characteristics of our fallen nature.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19 NKJV)
Delayed, but Still Deadly ~
The full impact of the words we utter are almost never felt immediately. Uttering a “false witness,” for instance, isn’t like pointing a loaded gun at someone and pulling the trigger. It’s more like a slow acting poison. Receiving dishonest words as truth can start a process in motion that is difficult or impossible to control, and the end result can be horribly destructive. Here are just a few examples of the power of false witnesses included in the Scriptures:
- Joseph was imprisoned because of it. (Genesis 39:1-20)
- David was plagued by it repeatedly. (Psalm 27:11-12)
- Naboth was executed on the basis of it. (2 Kings 21:5-14)
- Corrupt priests sought to use it to condemn Jesus. (Matthew 26:59-61)
- Ananias and Sapphira died after engaging in it. (Acts 5:1-10)
God’s intense reaction to false witnesses isn’t surprising, given that it represents a perversion of a mechanism close to His heart. A key element in His strategy of introducing Himself to a rebellious, fallen world involved people sharing first-hand, personal presentations about the positive transformational power in the love and life that He offers. False witnesses twist what could be “good news” into an expanding death spiral, inciting hatred and violence in those it touches. Consider just a few contrasting examples of the impact of “faithful” witnesses declaring truth:
- Naaman, the leper — healed after believing the words of a simple slave girl. (2 Kings 5:1-19)
- An entire city delivered from judgment as a result of Jonah’s astounding testimony. (Jonah 3:3-10)
- An untold number of Samaritans saved after hearing an immoral woman’s story. (John 4:39-42)
- A jailor in Philippi and his family saved after listening to Paul and Silas. (Acts 16:22-34)
An Alternative Direction ~
Maybe we could use a break from this chaotic quandary over whether the allegation leveled against Brett Kavanaugh represents another example of a false witness derailing someone’s life. How about considering a question in another direction? It may have some disquieting elements, but at least there’s some hope involved. Aside from the SCOTUS appointee, I wonder how many other people, some of whom we pass every day, are silently undergoing a train wreck of their own? Then I wonder what might happen if a trustworthy witness shared their story about how faith in Jesus Christ gave them hope and transformed his or her life forever?
In response to a world manipulated by witnesses inciting fear, anger, hatred, and violence, Jesus sent His followers and equipped them with a directive full of hope:
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NKJV)
While we wait to see who will testify what and to whom in regard to Judge Kavanaugh, maybe Heaven is waiting with a much higher level of interest to see who among us will testify how Jesus Christ took their brokenness and shame and gave them forgiveness and freedom. Our witness may not make the national news here, but it will be unforgettable in Heaven.
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- “When it comes to the human proclivity of reporting on one another’s behavior, #God has said a lot. #Solomon, for instance, made it clear that the result of our verbal #witness can have powerful implications. (Proverbs 18:21a NKJV)” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “God’s intense reaction to #FalseWitnesses isn’t surprising, given that it represents a perversion of a mechanism close to His heart.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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