“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 23:1-9
The words of scripture are always relevant, but these nine verses struck me as especially so in light of the issues our society is struggling with at the moment.
“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.”
Fake news has become a highly discussed topic. Both sides of most issues have those with little regard for the truth pushing agendas or merely looking to fill a niche and make some money. At times, those simply looking to profit have created information that has gained a wider appeal. Both sides also accuse the other of being the main culprit in this issue. I believe the root causes are pure selfish greed and the desire to push already formed opinions. Aside from not creating false reports ourselves, we ought to thoroughly research claims before we pass them along as fact.
“You shall not fall in with the many to do evil,”
Before you think this statement applies to the “many” opposing your point of view–whatever that may be–take a step back and pause. Any time there is a large group of people supporting a certain action that would benefit them, we must be wary of our own motivations. The most important consideration is whether both the method and the outcome would be good in the eyes of the Lord, not whether it would be in our own best interests.
“nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice”
While we often talk about not “following the crowd” it still happens in the court of public opinion much more often than it should. We are much too easily tempted to go along with the views of those around us instead of seeking out the truth ourselves as best we can and choosing to follow where it leads.
“nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”
“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.
Within the space of a few verses we are instructed not to be “partial to a poor man” and then “not pervert the justice due to your poor”. Whatever our disposition towards someone who is rich or poor and our views on how they obtained whatever status they may have, justice should not be influenced by a person’s social or economic class in either direction.
Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
This seems fairly straightforward, however, bribes may not always be as obvious as we think. We can be bribed towards thinking a certain way without realizing it.
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
Whatever you may think politically in regards to immigration, this verse combined with the fact that as Christians we too are sojourners and pilgrims should dictate the way we interact with immigrants and refugees.
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.”
This teaching is further developed by Jesus when he says,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:43-44
We ought to go out of our way to help those who hate us. We have heard this so much that the words don’t always register. We are to love and pray for those who seek to do us the most harm. Terrorists, criminals, racists, corrupt authorities, anyone you can think of, we should be loving and praying for. This is so far beyond what most of us do.
The first step towards actually living out this command is not to try harder, but it is to go back to the source of love and realize how much we are loved, especially since we don’t deserve it at all. We must continually be reminded of how great our sin really was and how incomparably greater is the love God has for us.
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:13-19
I am convinced that we–myself included–really don’t begin to grasp just how much we’ve done to deserve God’s wrath because of His perfect holiness and I believe we are even further from getting a handle on just how much God loves us, covering all of our sin and preparing a place for us to be with Him in perfect joy forever. Our finite minds can’t even approach beginning to understand what it means to be so perfectly loved for all of eternity.
I pray that we “come to know and believe the love that God has for us” more fully and are “perfected in love.” That we would be done with any type of fear for it has no hold on those whose destiny is perfectly secured in Christ. As we better understand and experience the love of God and lack of fear that love produces, we will be free to love those who hate us and pray for those who mistreat us. What would have seemed unthinkable or at the very least extremely challenging before will become part of how we live out our christian lives.
When we really believe how much we are loved by God and what that means for us, helping those who hate us–as Christ once did for us–will be much more natural. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Let it be said of us that while “they” were still enemies we loved them.