[Matt 5:13-20, 33-37; John 14:5-6, 15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4]
Anabaptists, in the past, have made a big deal out of Jesus’s commandment to no longer swear oaths (Matt 15:33-37), understanding this command in a few ways, including our call to simply be people of truth in all things we do as well as our call to not swear oaths to governments or other political groups because our highest allegiance is to God and God’s reign. Indeed, one of the seven articles of the Schleitheim Confession (Article VII), the earliest known Anabaptist “Confession” or agreement, is on this subject explicitly.
Yet, the topic seems rather simple. Be truthful. Do not be people who need to swear oaths. Put your full trust in God.
Still, Mariann asks us to think a bit beyond that. What does it mean to be people of God’s covenant love, and God’s truth? Our aim is not simply to be “truthful” but to be people that radiate God’s truth, being, and covenant love. This covenant love is not some contract that God sets up in order for God to love us, as long as we do so many things to stay faithful to the contract. God’s covenant love is a love that is pledged despite our greatest failures. God, however, calls us to be people that live into this covenant love, and this very much means to live as people of God’s truth, and that truth radiates this love and reconciliation in the world.
And so… truth! A big topic. Mariann’s intention is not to offer an in depth philosophical investigation; rather she invites us to reshape our notions of truth around what is true from the standpoint of God’s covenant love. Truth in this respect must be seen through the lens of the well-being of all of God’s people, including and specifically the most marginalized. Mariann notes a contemporary example:
It is not “true” that statues of confederate soldiers are just innocuous memorials that are part of the history of the US South. Even for the people who earnestly believe that; it doesn’t make it true for them. The practices and ideologies of racism that were being fought for in the Civil War by the South were … against God’s love, God’s plan and truth. …
[And on a more personal level] It is not true that you are a failure because you have messed up your life or that you are successful because you have never messed up. Your identity is not the bad or good marks on your historical timeline. Your identity is as a child of God.
To become people of truth is not simply to not lie, but to be transformed into a people who brings truth into the world and properly sees themselves in light of that truth, embracing the freedom that comes with it.
For convenience sake, there is also a podcast available. You can find that here.