the oath...so help me god!
By Chaplain LT. COL. Terry Austin
SINCE THE BEGINNING OF MAN'S EXISTENCE, making promises, taking vows, and swearing oaths has served as a contract between two parties. It is hard to believe that not long ago, one could give his word, and it was as good as a written contract. In today’s society, with its altered lifestyles and convoluted definitions, a promise is recorded on paper and witnessed by others. Each contract is accompanied by so much paperwork— requiring so many signatures—that sometimes we forget the basic principle of a promise, a personal commitment to fulfill our word.
Many Christians raise objections to taking oaths or swearing an oath. This, among other reasons, has caused military service to be looked upon with disfavor. Yet throughout history, the Christian community has fought and sacrificed their lives in the military to ensure we remain a free society, free to worship God as we choose. Many have served God and country while displaying great honor, yet secretly torn because of the military oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. I believe many soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and other patriots struggle with an inner conflict because they lack understanding about oaths and taking oaths.
As a young Marine, I remember my own struggle with this dilemma. I took an oath as a Marine, but aftertrusting Christ as my Savior, I read in Matthew 5:34, where Jesus said I was not to swear an oath at all.
How could I be a good Christian and fight for my country? How could I swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic while maintaining integrity to God and His Word?
An oath is a solemn appeal to God, asking Him to witness the truth of a statement or the sincerity of a promise. The one taking the oath appeals to God to help him fulfill that obligation. Oaths are binding, not to be used lightly or in normal conversation. Yet, when Jesus instructed his followers not to swear at all during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-35) this was not the case. Society in His day treated oaths far too casually.
We must interpret these words of Jesus in light of biblical history and the audience to whom Jesus was speaking. Scripture would bar us from taking an oath; the opposite is true. Jesus taught us to be deadly serious about taking oaths, calling on God to help us fulfill our obligation in sincerity and total commitment.
An oath or vow goes far beyond an agreement between two people. An oath is an agreement between the person swearing the oath and God. There can be no greater commitment.
When I trusted Christ as my personal savior I made a commitment; I took an oath; I made a vow. When I raised my right hand as a marine and as a soldier, I stood before God in total sincerity and asked Him to be my witness, to help me fulfill my vow.
God has blessed our country with men and women willing to take a solemn oath to defend our country and our way of life. We are free—and free to worship as our consciences lead us. It is imperative that we not live worthy of their sacrifice and take time to thank those who sacrifice so much to provide us the freedom we enjoy.
About the Writer: Chaplain Terry Austin is currently stationed in Lorton, Virginia.