I think you’ve all heard that phrase, “Cross my heart.” Maybe, like me, you said it when you were a kid. When someone wanted to be sure that I was telling the truth, they would ask, “Cross your heart?” and I would respond, “Cross my heart and hope to die!” What’s that all about?
It’s a kid’s version of something that was probably once a lot more solemn, a type of oath that someone would say to call God as a witness to the truth. Crossing your heart was a religious gesture. “Hope to die,” would be another way of saying, “May God strike me dead if I am not telling the truth.”
This Sunday I’m going to be preaching about oaths and swearing, and how that connects to the Anabaptist tradition. How can we tell whether people are telling the truth? It’s one of the most basic questions in life, and it’s something people have struggled with for thousands of years. Calling on God as a witness is one of the ways we have emphasized truth-telling. I still remember Scarlett O’Hara’s impassioned words from the movie Gone with the Wind, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!” (If you haven’t seen the movie that statement is absolutely ridiculous, but of course in the movie it all makes sense!)
In our courtrooms there is still the tradition of calling on God to witness to truth-telling, which is ironic considering lots of people don’t believe in God, and so it makes swearing on a Bible meaningless.
We’ll be looking at Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount where he says, “Don’t swear…let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Be truthful people all the time, not just when pushed to make an oath. God’s servants should have truthful speech (2 Corinthians 6:7). But our culture teaches us it’s OK to be “economical with the truth,” or to “stretch the truth”. How important is truth-telling in your life?
This week’s prayer: Lord, help us to understand the gospel truth. We want to worship you in spirit and in truth!