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Confession of Faith - Article 20:
Truth and the Avoidance of Oaths

   

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We commit ourselves to tell the truth, to give a simple yes or no, and to avoid swearing of oaths.

Jesus told his disciples not to swear oaths at all, but to let their yes be yes, and their no be no.1 We believe that this teaching applies to truth telling as well as to avoiding profane language.2 An oath is often sworn as a guarantee that one is telling the truth. This implies that when one has not taken an oath, one may be less careful about telling the truth. Jesus' followers are always to speak the truth and, in legal matters, simply to affirm that their statements are true.

Jesus also warned against using oaths to try to compel God to guarantee the future. In faith, we commit our futures to God.3

Throughout history, human governments have asked citizens to swear oaths of allegiance. As Christians, our first allegiance is to God.4 In baptism we pledged our loyalty to Christ's community, a commitment that takes precedence over obedience to any other social and political communities.

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Commentary

  1. In the biblical languages, truth is related to faithfulness-- faithfulness to the facts (speaking truth) as well as faithfulness in relationships (being true). Speaking the truth in love in the Christian community shows our commitment to right relationships as well as to accurate speech.

  2. We follow the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, which has usually applied Jesus' words against taking oaths in these ways: in affirming rather than swearing in courts of law and in other legal matters, in a commitment to unconditional truth telling and to keeping one's word, in avoiding membership in oath-bound or secret societies, in refusing to take oaths of allegiance that would conflict with our ultimate allegiance to God through Christ, and in avoiding all profane oaths.

    Jesus' counsel to tell the truth without oaths and to be true in our relationships applies to family life, business dealings, advertising, and other agreements we make.

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Scripture references

  1. Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12.
  2. Ephesians 4:15, 29.
  3. Matthew 5:34-36.
  4. Acts 5:29.