May 3, 2010
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16
Martin Luther was brilliant, but he wasn't always quotable. One exception to that statement occurs in the reformer's explanation to the Eighth Commandment. He said we were to "put the best construction on everything."
With those words Luther tried to find a simple solution to humanity's sinful use of the tongue -- the tongue which makes its owner look good while, at the same time, it makes others look bad.
During the course of His ministry, our Savior suffered attacks from many malicious tongues who accused Him of being a devil, a heretic, a blasphemer, and an insurrectionist. Many of these charges He turned back. The accusations which came during Jesus' trials were endured as a lamb who would die without complaint. Of course, few of us have the courage of the Christ.
Many of us are more fragile -- fragile like Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, Massachusetts. If you haven't heard her story, Prince was taunted by her classmates, almost constantly, from September until she committed suicide on January 14th of this year.
As the case is being investigated, it seems that six teens, four girls, and two boys, may face criminal charges -- charges that could include statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly, and stalking. Most of these insults happened on school property during school hours. That means these things might have been prevented.
I'm not being facetious when I say Christians don't generally do such things to others with a malicious intent. Even so, I am convinced most of us have been deeply wounded by a brother or sister who has accidentally shared a close confidence, or deliberately revealed our secret sins to someone with curious ears.
If you are nodding your head in agreement, if you understand what has been said, then the Lord invites us to join with Luther's commitment to defend our neighbors, speak well of them, and put the best construction on everything.
If we were to do so, the results would be both positive and powerful.
• First, we would be glorifying the Lord who gave His life so we might have life eternal.
• Second, we would avoid causing injury to our brothers and sisters.
• Third, we would offer a more inviting fellowship to those who need to believe in the Savior and find a spiritual family.
Of course, if you don't like the idea, I really hope you won't speak about the idea to others in a negative way.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me forgive those whose tongues have wounded me. Grant me the grace to judge my words so they may build others up and not tear them down. This I pray in the Name of the Savior whom I wish to honor. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries