“He hit me!”, yelped my 4-year-old daughter after apparently being assaulted by her big brother. If you’re a parent, you’ll suspect that there’s more to this story! You may wonder, as I did, how this sweet little girl had aggravated him … yet again. You’d not wish to collude with her in villainizing the brother.
Similar scenarios are all too common among adults. It’s called “triangulation” and involves three parties: the victim, the villain, and the rescuer. It proceeds something like this: You chat with someone who is seeking your sympathy over an offense that they experienced. The third person, the apparent offender, is absent, so you hear only one side of the story. Afterwards, it’s difficult to view the seeming offender without some degree of distrust. You may even collude with the victim in villainizing this “enemy”.
Such scenarios become terribly divisive in relationships. Yet, they are so familiar that we easily forget how intensely evil they can be. They violate a moral code, namely, the ninth commandment:
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16 NIV)
Perhaps you know this commandment as “Do not lie”, yet miss the point as expanded in Exodus 23:1-9. There you’ll see that it’s about justice and fairness. It means: do not portray your neighbour (including opponents or those outside your circle) in dishonest ways, with the aim of having them unfairly accused. Oh, you might be quite truthful in your details, but you use those truths for evil motives — just as my daughter did. She was, actually, a lying witness because she slanted her testimony with the devious aim of making herself look righteous and her brother look guilty. It’s a subtle form of vengeance.
As I ponder the ninth commandment, I find myself sensitized to my own guilt. I’ve been a lying witness more times than I’ll ever know. Then, there are those many occasions when I remained a silent bystander, allowing a speaker to get away with accusing language regarding an absent person. I preferred to remain socially agreeable. However, this permissive silence doesn’t make me innocent, for in truth, I could have put a check on inappropriate conversation. I’d say that I didn’t sufficiently hate evil:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 NIV)
This verse is from the “love passage” in Romans. The entire passage brilliantly puts substance to the ninth commandment. Here are a few more bits from Romans 12:
‘Honor one another above yourselves … Bless those who persecute you … Live in harmony with one another …. Do not repay anyone evil for evil … As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone … Do not take revenge … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:10,14,16,17,18,19,21 NIV)
Let’s meditate on these verses to guard ourselves from the temptation to be a lying witness or to be taken in by a lying witness.
Prayer: Lord, expose any vengeful motive that may lurk within us, and deepen our appreciation for Your precious laws of justice and fairness, as expressed throughout Scripture. Amen.
Copyright © 2021, by Diane Eaton <firstname.lastname@example.org>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional presbycan.ca .
Paisley, Ontario, Canada
Reprinted from PresbyCan with author’s permission