Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

Before I was converted I never heard the word "witness" being used other than in a legal sense, as in a witness giving testimony at a trial. After my conversion, as I became immersed in the Christian culture and church-speak, I was introduced to another use of the word. Here is an example of its usage in a sentence, "Hey, are you going out witnessing on Thursday night?"

Loosely it means to share the gospel with people. Specifically it meant going "soul winning" or "knocking on doors" as it was called amongst my new brothers and sisters. One night (at least) every week the members of our local church were supposed to spend a couple of hours visiting the homes of people who were not believers and try to get them to convert. Sometimes this involved cold calls, where homes were chosen at random, and sometimes we worked from lists of people who had visited the church or were friends or relatives of church members who were concerned about their eternal souls.

In true dispensationalist fashion, we were taught that the souls of these people depended upon our harassing them into the Kingdom. If they never put their faith and trust in Jesus, it would be our fault for not going soul winning and witnessing to them. It was like being an encyclopedia salesman for Jesus. Not pleasant.

Now, years later, I have come to understand that the word "witness" when used in Scripture doesn't take on some special, different meaning just because it is in the Bible. The words in the Bible are just words and they are used because of their meanings, rather than having their meanings changed because they are biblical.

So, what is a witness and what did Jesus mean when He said we would be witnesses of Him?

Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Somehow, it doesn't seem like He was saying that after He sends the Holy Ghost our task will be to knock on every door in the world and blast them with the gospel. After all, a witness is one who tells what he saw and heard. But he doesn't just go blabbing everywhere, there is an appropriate place to witness and an appropriate audience for the witness.

In the Old Testament, witnesses were used to verify the truth of something. Not only crimes, but also land sales and the works of God. Witnesses of a murder were to be the first to cast stones in the execution. No one else could toss a rock until the witnesses tossed theirs. Witnesses appeared before the one sitting in judgment. For the most part, a witness testifies when called upon to do so.

While we should be ready to give an answer to anyone that asks about the hope that lies within us, it doesn't seem that we need to be demanding an audience with those who don't want to hear. That is like casting pearls before swine.

But we also know that God can't stand a lying witness. Here's a familiar verse:

Exodus 20:16
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

So, if one is called to testify, he must testify truthfully.

I said all of that to say this: Why does going to weddings get me so irritated? Well, I know why, but why can't I just go along and get along like everyone else? Why can't I fawn and oooo and ahhhh and talk about how beautiful the bride was? Why must I find fault with nearly every aspect of the wedding ceremony? One reason, really. Truth. We should be truth tellers. We should not be false witnesses when called to testify. My personal opinion about most weddings, and I mean Christian weddings, is that they are blasphemous. I don't even know why I say "most", because I haven't been to one yet where the truth was spoken.

Marriage was instituted by God. But wedding ceremonies, filled with their lies, must come straight from the father of lies.

Wedding ceremonies are not essential for marriage. They are not even mentioned in the Bible. (Wedding feasts, yes, wedding ceremonies, no.) Therefore, if we must insist on performing them, shouldn't we be using them as a vehicle for delivering truth? Not every aspect of a wedding needs to be infused with sacred meaning, and for heavens sake please don't invent stuff to make you feel more holy for doing this or that during your wedding!

What is with the Unity Candle? From what in Scripture do people get the notion that lighting two candles then using them to light a third candle symbolizes a man and woman coming together as one flesh? It makes about as much sense as having the bride and groom each bring in a pint of ice cream and then mix them together. Or each bring in some mud from their parents' yards and mix that. The TRUTH is... God designed sex as the symbol and the means whereby two become one. But we are too squeamish for that, so we make up our own symbols and the truth be damned!

By the way, marriage is NOT a covenant. If it was, I'm pretty sure that the Bible would have mentioned it or alluded to it at least once, somewhere in those 66 books. It isn't there. Obviously, if I'm wrong on this, it will be easy enough to debunk my position.

But guess what? Betrothal IS a covenant. It is a covenant to marry! That's right, the groom promises, makes a covenant to return and take the bride to wife. When the groom comes and takes his bride, the covenant is fulfilled. It is complete. It is done.

It is wrong, and spreads untruth, to take the covenantal aspects of betrothal and apply them to marriage as if God meant to do it all along, but just forgot.

But the vows, those are from the Bible, right? Well, when Christ betrothed you to himself, what were your vows? When he comes for his bride, does she take vows? Does he? What is the consequence for breaking marriage vows? Are all of the vows the same? I've heard of people refer to a person who was unfaithful in marriage as having "broken the marriage vows." (I assume they refer to the vow to keep all affection only for the spouse) But if a wife fails to honor or obey her husband, I have NEVER heard someone say she has "broken the marriage vows." Why is that? I've even heard someone say that "breaking the marriage vows" is cause for divorce, but only in relation to one of the vows.

If the man and woman don't make vows, will they still be married? If so, then obviously the vows are not necessary, they are just one more added element to the ceremony to give it a more sanctified atmosphere. Unfortunately, God doesn't take the act of vowing vows lightly, so it really puts a burden on a couple that God does not require.

Numbers 30:2
If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.

Additionally, it seems to me that vows in Scripture are to perform or not perform certain acts, so the vow can be fulfilled. They are not open-ended. The acts are specific, not general like "honor" and "obey". Our modern marriage vows don't coincide with anything seen in the Bible nor are they recommended or required by God.

Rings? Rings can be a token of anything of which we want to make them a token. They aren't necessary to marriage and aren't sacred. Marriage isn't a covenant, so they aren't tokens of the covenant.

Here we are, Christians, with a captive audience at a wedding. Tell the gospel! If the ceremony deviates from the gospel, then either change the ceremony or announce "This part of the ceremony has nothing to do with biblical marriage, we are just doing it because it makes us feel sanctimonious or gives us the warm fuzzies."

To do otherwise is bearing false witness, it is giving false testimony. Please don't do it.