Q: What does the ninth commandment forbid?
A: The ninth commandment forbids anything that gets in the way of the truth or injures anyone’s reputation.
These two things are often in tension, and it’s worth discussing that tension with your kids. When considering snitching or tattle-telling, for example, when is it important to value the truth over another person’s reputation? Or when name-calling or joshing around, when do you choose not to puncture another’s dignity, even if there is truth to the label?
We, as adults, often fail at this balance. And we, as a church, often fail as well. I was struck with shock and grief at a recent article in The Washingtonian about the travails of members of Sovereign Grace churches who struggled to seek for justice and support from incidences of child abuse within the church. We turn our eyes away from this tragedy at our own peril.
Ultimately, truth and dignity do not contradict each other. The preservation and satisfaction of everyone’s dignity requires perfect justice and complete truth. The truth is, though, that all our reputations amount to zilch, and perfect justice annihilates our credulity. It shines a light on all our suffering, but also our complicity.
So we work out our faith with fear and trembling. We cling and plead for a perspective and wisdom that is not ours. Our sin takes us to our knees, while our salvation lifts our prayers up. It is in that communion that we can find truth AND love, redress AND redemption.