Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Science of Oaths

“And [Herod] promised [Herodias’s daughter] with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ ‘The head of John the Baptist,’ she answered.”

~Mark 6:23-24 (NIV [adapted]).

If it isn’t bad enough to make rash promises it’s even worse to make promises you can’t deliver on. Sure, Herod delivered on his oath but he had no kingdom to offer—he was a ruler under Roman authority.

Mark’s gospel tells us the “king was greatly distressed” (Mark 6:26) at the nature of the request proving the folly of such a boldly and broadly positioned proud oath in the first place.

Our promises have been no different. The words we choose and the way we say them cause us no end of trouble sometimes.

Words – the ‘Written’ Nemesis

When we consider the ramifications of emails and social networking sites’ reliance on written communications, our typed word has rapidly become our bond. It’s all those who interact with us have to go on. It’s down on media and it’s ‘gospel’ if you ask them.

It’s the same for us. We’ll often read and re-read one or two sentences in a written communiqué to obtain more of the person’s meaning who transmitted it.

The more we read, of course, the more we increase the risk of reading our own mind’s version of things—often contorting the message well past its original intent—investing with our own ‘filters.’

The Issues behind Rash Words

What causes us to say silly things and make rash promises?

There are many levels to this including incongruence of thought, fear for some reason, or perhaps we just want to impress people. At the extremes here is the ‘people pleaser,’ and some of us will well relate.

Everything we say and do is a function of the overflow of our hearts (Matthew 12:34). What motivates us to say things, and even to the way we say them, happens at times levels below our conscious minds.

Our hearts—the seat of our intentions—are deep; many times deeper than we often realise.

The Science of Oaths

This ‘science,’ if it is to be mastered, is one of being at truth with one’s self at the heart level.

It’s being personally beyond reproach—a sort of personal accountability whereby the Holy Spirit’s line of fire to, and channel of communication with, us is as direct as it possibly can be. We must be dedicated to the truth. This is impossible to do perfectly. We can only strive to do it. We’ll get it right some of the time but not all the time.

This is why oaths are so often forlorn. Jesus warned us during his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:33-37 that we should let our ‘Yes’ be simply ‘Yes’ and our ‘No,’ ‘No.’

We’re fine to make promises provided we’re at one with our hearts deeper intent and we’re under no misapprehension about both the matter of the promise and the consequences for failing to deliver on it—a difficult combination to achieve consistently.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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