Sunday, April 20, 2014

The 9th Commandment

Readers of this blog may sometimes get the feeling that Eaton Rapids is somewhere between Mayberry, North Carolina and Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.  They picture a bucolic village filled with old duffers who wear camo shorts, sports sandals and tie-dyed shirts.

Either that, or they imagine that I live in a fantasy world where everything is heavily tinted with the rosiest of hues.

The 9th Commandment

The 9th Commandment is often stated:

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Those of us who are parents often explain this to our children as being a fancy, Bible-talk way of saying "Do not tell lies."

But the 9th Commandment is really much, much more.

Picture the initial audience

A band of refugees wandering about the desert for forty years.  That experience was the crucible that shaped their culture.  Their survival is contingent on being able to work together and to be frugal. The Israel Nation's existence was not buffered by a mild and equitable climate.  It was not buffered by an abundance of resources or multiple generations of infrastructure (like oil presses, dug wells, fences, walls and dwellings).  The wandering tribes did not even have the benefit of deep knowledge of the landscape...they moved too often.  Nope.  The only thing buffering them from a hostile environment was their culture.

What is a false witness?

A "false witness" is a person who relays information that they did not experience as a first-hand observer.  In other words, a "false witness" is a gossip.

Another perspective is that a "false witness" one who chooses an improper venue.  They might have been a first-hand observer but they choose to "witness" in venues that are outside the approved process.

My understanding of the Biblical approach to solving conflict is that first the aggrieved party should confront the perp.  If that is not successful, then the aggrieved party should confront the perp with two neutral parties as witnesses.  If that is not successful then the aggrieved party should seek redress under the law.

NOWHERE does the Bible condone Ralph-telling-Suzie-telling-Miranda-telling-Sheldon-telling....  That does not resolve problems.  That process creates hard feelings, blood feuds and even gang warfare.

Perhaps modern people have the option of moving to another town or diluting the dispute by way of distance.  That was not an option for the tribes wandering in the desert. There were no towns to move to and a compact camp is easier to defend than a dispersed camp.

So, there was a fight in Eaton Rapids early this week.

Story here.  Definitely not a Lake Wobegon kind of fight.

I am proud of my community for the restraint that shown.  Events like this can be extremely inflammatory.  Collectively, my community kept their heads on straight and mostly resisted the urge to gossip about it.

Whether church going Christians or not; most of us respected the 9th Commandment.  We are a stronger community for having exercised that restraint.

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