The other side of the ninth commandment

re-blogged from Keep Ablaze, the website of Pastor Rob Schouten

When Christians disagree with each other or when tensions arise in the life of the church, it’s important to take the time to hear each other carefully. Misrepresenting people is a serious sin and so due diligence is required of us in analyzing what others say and write. Processing what others say and write can be hard work but it’s a task we can’t avoid if we want to be part of the discussion.

However, there’s another side to all of this. It’s what I call the obligation to speak clearly. Sometimes, those who feel that others have sinned against them by misrepresenting their view have only themselves to blame because they did not communicate clearly or did so evasively. The 9th commandment, however, obliges us to speak clearly and forthrightly in personal relationships and in the life of the church. When issues arise, we should strive to make our position clear. If our position is not clear, perhaps we should simply be silent. If we do speak unclearly, we should not complain when people give our words an interpretation we did not intend. Instead of complaining, we should be ready to give more clarity by answering questions posed or by responding to criticisms offered.

History shows that when false doctrine arises in the church, it often does so in a subtle manner. Those who introduce  ideas foreign to the confession of the church frequently cloak their thoughts in orthodox language while closer inspection reveals that there is a new content and a new direction. For this reason, the Forms of Subscription used in the Reformed Churches contain the following provision: “If at any time the consistory, classis or regional synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and in order to maintain the unity and purity of teaching, would decide to require of us a further explanation of our views, we do promise that we are always ready and willing to comply under penalty of suspension.”

So if we feel that members of the church or even church leaders have sinned against the 9th commandment in their evaluation of our views, shall we say about the issue of evolution, perhaps we should stop and ask: “Have I been speaking clearly?” Perhaps the issue is not an uncharitable interpretation of our words by others but a somewhat obscure communication on our part. The ninth commandment obliges us to speak clearly so that everyone can know where we stand on the issues of the day. Similarly, this same commandment obliges every Christian to “speak the truth in love” when we perceive that the “unity and purity of teaching” in the church is in danger.