But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. – James 5:12
Christian unity cannot be achieved without trust, and trust only endures if persons are faithful to their commitments. James in this passage echoes the words uttered by Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37 where He also seeks integrity among believers. In the Matthew passage, some were trying to get out of their commitments by swearing by less valuable things, but this is not acceptable. Whether one swears by God, makes a formal oath, or swears by something very valuable, what’s needed is faithfulness to one’s word and one’s commitments, regardless of whether sworn to God or otherwise. This is not a passage saying that taking a formal oath in a courtroom or similar place is not allowed by God, but that in the normal course of life, such a declaration of strong commitment should never be necessary. It shouldn’t be necessary because a Christian’s word should be as strong as a signed contract, or any sort of vow or oath, because he or she is always in the practice of speaking the truth and keeping their commitments.
Sadly, consequential covenants are broken regularly in society. Most notable is the covenant between a man and woman in marriage, but there are others. Some covenants exist, where persons owe something to others by virtue of simply being a person. For example, grown children have a covenant to help take care of their parents later in life, and parents have a responsibility to care for and protect their children when they are young. Breaking these family covenants displeases God, breaks unity, and harms society.
Mostly, James is speaking about covenants formed verbally between persons, which requires self-discipline to keep. In many circumstances, in order to gain favor or some benefit, it is tempting to commit to something, which later may be regretted. Self-discipline is needed so that a person doesn’t commit to something just for immediate gratification, without the self-control to stay faithful to the commitment later on. This temptation springs from rampant self-indulgence present in current society. The Scriptures teach that in the last days society will be radically self-indulgent, lovers of pleasure, and lovers of selves. This overwhelming desire to please oneself over God tempts Christians to commit to something when it looks easy or beneficial, then to go back on their word when it becomes costly in some fashion.
Has this been true of you? Have you made a commitment to something that you later backed out of because there was no legal agreement? If so, repent and then go to the offended party and make amends as necessary. As you take this step, God will forgive you, trust will start to grow again, and unity in the body will be strengthened.
This devotion marks Day 14 of a Christian Union fast centering on the theme of “Unity of the Spirit Precedes Filling of the Spirit.” I pray that you’ve been blessed and strengthened as you’ve drawn near to Him, seeking Him with your whole heart. Our country needs a move of God, a move of the Holy Spirit, and that starts with Christians turning to God, repenting of all their sins and asking Him to move powerfully in our midst.
Dear Father, bring to mind every broken covenant that I’ve made that I may repent and bring You praise and honor. May I be fully reconciled to those I’ve harmed through my idle words and failure to be faithful to my words. Bring unity to the body of Christ and fill us with Your Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ may be glorified in every way.
Yours in Christ,
Founder and CEO, Christian Union
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