Two criminal trials an ocean and a continent apart have claimed their share of world news headlines in recent weeks.
• In Houston, Texas, the trial of two chief Enron officials, whose fraudulent deals were at the heart of one of corporate America's biggest frauds and financial collapses, took a dramatic turn when the company's former chief financial officer became the central figure for both prosecution and defense. It seemed harder than ever to get to the truth.
• In South Africa, Jacob Zuma, until last June deputy leader under President Thabo Mbeki, has been charged with corruption and is now on trial for rape. Reliable witnessing and wise judgment have become crucial in satisfying an already distrustful and anxious electorate.
The Bible's Ninth Commandment, not to "bear false witness" - not to spread untruths about other people - emphasizes that constructive, clear witnessing and testifying are part of the spiritual bedrock on which human life functions and flourishes.
The search for convincing, honest witnesses, however, doesn't belong exclusively to courtrooms, and isn't confined to the cut and thrust of political leadership or corporate life. It is an integral component of people's spiritual lives.
Hebrew Scripture contains an imposing record, stretching back into the distant past, of the ways in which courageous, God-fearing people found restoration and healing through bearing witness to God's power and presence. The New Testament Gospels reverberate with unforgettable accounts of the words and deeds of Christ Jesus, the greatest of all healers and witnesses to the healing power of God. His career and activities clearly demonstrated his reliance on God in overcoming all adverse circumstances, including his crucifixion.
The Bible points out the role you and I can play today in confirming - bearing true witness to - the news of God's power, right where there appears to be evidence of deceitfulness, criminality, injustice.
Jesus' perspective on life, truth, and attesting to God's allness was explained by a remarkable witness in more recent times, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science. She wrote, "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 476-477).
At the core of Christian Science teaching and practice is the act of bearing convincing testimony to the supremacy, the goodness, and the awesomeness of God's love for us, which results in the healing of anything that is contrary to our perfection in God's sight. She gave the world a clear exposition of this activity in her writings, urging readers to become "real and consecrated warriors" in "establishing the truth, the gospel, and the Science which are necessary to the salvation of the world from error, sin, disease, and death" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 177).
As witnesses for truth, we all have the privilege of making a vital contribution to sustaining righteousness, justice, mercy, and love among people even in the farthest reaches of the globe. We can seek a greater awareness and a deeper understanding of who God is and what He has already done for His people over the centuries. And we can make an honest assessment of our own track record by asking, Can people really know what God is like through my witnessing - my words, my example?
Holding steadfastly to this purpose, humanity will eventually and inevitably be empowered to emulate the example of the world's finest spiritual healers, and especially of Jesus, who never lost sight of his mission to "bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37).
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.