THE Biblical commandment ``Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour''1 sometimes appears overshadowed by other commandments. Bearing false witness may seem almost trivial compared with killing or stealing. But as one studies the Ten Commandments and endeavors to obey them, he finds each one growing in breadth, daily significance, and spiritual meaning. He may even find that each commandment, in certain ways, embraces the other nine.
This isn't to suggest that the literal meaning of a commandment is unimportant. To refrain from telling a lie about one's neighbor, to say only what one knows to be honest about another, not to assume wrongdoing by an acquaintance without clear evidence -- this morality can hardly be overvalued!
Yet deeper aspects of the Commandments come into view when we examine them as divine demands. One may ask about the Ninth Commandment, What is God calling me to bear witness to in my neighbor? Is God requiring me to see certain people as sinful or sickly? Or is He telling me to bear witness to something more?
The teachings of Christian Science show how we can bear witness to man as created in the likeness of God, in the image of divine Truth itself. We can look beneath the sinful and sickly veneer of mortality and discover that God's children are created upright and strong, perfect and spiritual.
Isn't this something of what Christ Jesus saw in those he healed and saved? Where the material senses bore witness to physical or moral debilitation, he saw the good, worthy child of God. Jesus based his view of man on the spiritual fact that only what God creates is legitimate and lasting. He explained his life mission in these terms: ``To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.''2
We discern in prayer the God-established truth about our neighbor by learning to view him spiritually -- through what the Christian Science textbook calls ``spiritual sense.'' We read, ``What is termed material sense can report only a mortal temporary sense of things, whereas spiritual sense can bear witness only to Truth.'' The author, Mary Baker Eddy,3 says farther on, ``Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality.''4
Viewing our neighbor spiritually, however, doesn't mean that we ignore an individual's need for redemption or healing. If sin or sickness is controlling someone we know, we can proceed with compassion, integrity, and wisdom in our dealings with him. Bearing witness to man's perfect, God-given identity isn't a license for us to overlook someone's need to demonstrate this identity through spiritual healing and regeneration.
Yet we can best help others to be their true selves by refusing to identify any apparent lack as a God-constituted reality. Even if, for example, we must correct someone or perhaps testify in court against an accused individual, we can bear true witness by understanding that since God, good, is the only creator, evil's imposition on someone is unsupported by divine Truth and destined to be put off as a false depiction of God's man.
At some point we all must realize that God has not made us to be dominated by any evil. He has made man to express His goodness. Then we'll discover that God has made us to see His creation as already present. We won't be deceived by mortal appearances of imperfection. In the measure that we utilize this God-given spiritual sense, we'll receive the blessings that come from our obeying God's command to bear true witness.
1Exodus 20:16. 2John 18:37. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 298.