The 8th Commandment states: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This commandment proscribes against any kind of lying, or misrepresentation of the truth in any of our relationships, public, private. It flows from our faith vocation to bear witness to God, who IS the truth, and who wills the truth for us and for all of mankind. When we fail in telling the truth, or acting in accord with the truth, we show our refusal to commit ourselves to moral uprightness. We are, in fact, being unfaithful to God, we are undermining the covenant between God and ourselves.
As Christians, we know from the scriptures that God is the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful. His law is therefore rooted in the truth and we are called to live in that truth. We have seen the whole of God’s truth manifested in the flesh in Christ Jesus. In him we have seen the the light. He has shown us the way. He even told us outright, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and he calls us to live in accord with his way of love. To lie, to misrepresent the truth in word or deed, is to deny Christ’s call. Jesus has shown us the way, has invited us into that relationship with him and to carry that relationship on with all those with whom we share our lives, both our intimate lives, and our public lives.
When Jesus was brought before Pilate after he was arrested, he proclaimed to Pilate that he, “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). If you remember, Pilate’s response was, “Truth! What is truth?” We, as Christians, know what the truth is and we are not to be ashamed of the truth, for we have seen its glory in the One who is the source and goal of our faith. So why do we lie, or bear false witness against our neighbors? How many ways do we fall into this behavior?
We fall into this by falling into the habits of lying in all of its forms. To lie is to say “is” when you know, “is not,” or vise versa. It is to speak against the truth, in order to lead someone astray in any way. We fall into it when we fall into the habit of boasting, or bragging, in an attempt to enhance our own reputation falsely. We bear false witness when we make any public statement that is contrary to the truth in any way, for any reason. This often causes damage to the innocent. Fear is the great driver behind this behavior. We fear being found out for our own guilt. Because we fear being set apart, or being rejected, we lie or in order to make ourselves more acceptable to others. There are countless ways we fall into the lie. When we lie we are disrespecting others, God, and ourselves. As Christians, we are morally bound to honor the reputation of others. Because of this we are never to get caught up in gossip, or in misrepresenting another person in any way behind their back. We are not to listen to such things either. Rather, we are to bear witness to the truth of every person’s infinite dignity and their right to be respected because of that God-given dignity. We are to honor Christ, the beloved other, the stranger, and ourselves by committing ourselves more and more to the truth. That is God’s calling to us.
Lord, help us to recommit ourselves to the way of truth in all of our relationships, in all of our speech, in all of our actions. You who are the truth, and you have made us in your own image and likeness. Give us the grace to be true to ourselves and to you in all of our speech and actions. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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