"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.' But I tell you, do not swear an oath 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. All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." Matthew 5: 33-37
When I was a kid, there was an oath we used to convince our friends that we were REALLY serious about keeping a commitment we were about to make. You probably used it, too. It went something like, "Cross my heart and hope to die ... stick a needle in my eye." Think about that for a moment -- "stick a needle in my eye"? That's a pretty heavy consequence for a 5-year-old kid! You'd have to be pretty serious to make a commitment like that, wouldn't you?
Now, do you remember how a person could legally break even a "cross-my-heart" commitment without any repercussions? By crossing your fingers, right? I mean, you could commit to anything, and as long as you had those fingers crossed, you could renege with impunity. No one could touch you. All that oath taking and finger crossing stuff was pretty harmless when we were kids. But, we aren't kids anymore. And yet, it seems to me that as we have grown up many of us have kept right on using this finger-crossing technique so that we can find ways to justify breaking almost any commitment especially when the commitment becomes difficult, costly, or even just inconvenient.
We live in what is fast becoming a commitment-free world.
Everywhere we look it seems that people are trading in their power to live an uncommitted life. We want to keep the options open so that we don't get tied down to commitments that might get in the way of our pursuit of happiness. Have you ever said something like this: "I will be praying for you." And deep down you know that you have no intention at all of praying for them. Ever said to someone: "We have to get together for lunch or dinner sometime soon." When you know that that's about as likely to happen as you being included on the next space shuttle mission?
In the midst of that kind of world, Jesus says: "I want you to make commitments to God and to each other. But if you make them, I want you to take them seriously and to lean upon the grace of God to enable you to keep those commitments. Because when you do it's going to make a difference. It's going to stand out. God will be honored and the body will be held together and encouraged!"
Editor's note: The Rev. Dr. Scott Stewart is the pastor of Pea Ridge United Methodist Church and Brightwater Methodist Church. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-659-9519.Religion on 03/18/2020
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