''Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.'' n1 The ninth commandment is very clear, ruling out perjury, defamation, and even gossip. But what about bearing true witness?
There is a growing tendency on the part of many to avoid speaking out against or actively confronting wrongdoing for fear of getting uncomfortably involved. While we certainly need to let our actions be impelled by divine wisdom, by the one unerring Mind, we need never be afraid of bearing true witness.
What can the individual do to support lawfulness and fight crime, thus bearing true witness? Perhaps most important, he can conform his own life to the law of God, Principle, expressed in the Ten Commandments and throughout the Scriptures. From this standpoint he'll be guided rightly in taking any specific outward action to combat lawlessness.
For example, recently when I was witness to a misdemeanor it would have been easier to look away, because I was facing a busy schedule that day. But some words from the Bible helped me make the right decision: ''Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.'' n2 I knew, as a Christian Scientist, that I was here to witness to the justice of God's law. I had no course but to side with law. Even a By-Law of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, of which I am a member, includes this provision: ''. . . whenever God calls a member to bear testimony to Truth and to defend the Cause of Christ, he shall do it with love and without fear.''
n2 Isiah 43:10. n3 Manual of the Mother Church,m Art. VIII, Sect. 25.
I telephoned the police and made my report. They asked me to remain on the scene and continue observing until they arrived. I alerted the security guard of our building to expect the police, and the guard also became an observer. While we both watched, the misdemeanor developed into a larger crime. This time there were two witnesses.
When the police arrived to make the arrest, they expressed gratitude for our willingness to be witnesses in court. Most cases of this kind, they said, were lost for lack of proof. The culprits were driven to the police station to be booked. On the way, they passed the security guard and shouted threats of vengeance.
In the weeks preceding the trial, which promised to be sensational, the security guard expressed trepidation about being a witness. I offered encouragement and assurance but did not look forward myself to being absent from my office and facing the publicity. A statement by Mary Baker Eddy, however, reinforced my resolve: ''I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results.'' n4 I knew that my motive was love - love of the right, love of God, Principle. On the day of the trial, as we were preparing to go to court, the security guard and I each received a call, telling us we did not need to appear. Realizing the strong case against them, the prisoners had elected to plead guilty.
n4 Miscellaneous Writings, m p. 250.
We never need fear bearing true witness. We have the example of the Master to follow. Christ Jesus was fearless in his stand for right. Whether it was throwing the money-changers out of the temple or rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he never sacrificed his adherence to Principle for popularity. As a hymn expresses it,
The faithful witness to the truth,
His just rebuke was hurled
Out from a heart that burned to break
The fetters of the world. n5
n5 Christian Science Hymnal, m No. 333.
To Pilate, the Master clearly explained his mission: ''To this end was I born , and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.'' n6
We are all here to bear witness to truth - and to love, joy, justice, integrity. These are the qualities of our true nature as the spiritual image of God. Man, as God made him, is upright, eternally governed by divine law. Recognizing this and claiming His help, we can fulfill our mission without fear. We can all bear true witness, and thus keep the commandment.
n6 John 18:37.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth. Ephesians 6:14