I love every bit of the Heidelberg Catechism, mostly for its Christ-centered comfort. But when read carefully, the Catechism is also tremendously challenging.
No more so than in its explanation of the ninth commandment. We may think of if as a prohibition against lying, but the Catechism rightly sees it as much more. In fact, when I read Q/A 112 of the Heidelberg Catechism I count nine things we are to do in obedience to the ninth commandment.
1. God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone.
2. I twist no one’s words.
3. I do not gossip or slander.
4. I do not join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause.
5. Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense anger.
6. I should love the truth.
7. I should speak the truth candidly.
8. I should openly acknowledge the truth.
9. I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
Yikes. Count me convicted. Am I really like the devil when I reinterpret every story to benefit me and purposefully reconstruct the facts of every narrative to make my point? How easy it is to assume the worst about those I don’t like or don’t know, especially people who seem bigger than me (athletes, politicians, celebrities), unlike me (different faith, different color, different politics), or far from me (in physical or relational distance). How challenging it can be in pressure-packed moments to speak the truth candidly and openly acknowledge it. How unpopular and difficult it is to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
In our digital age of pervasive punditry, instant analysis, and perpetual outrage, surely the breach of the ninth commandment is one of our besetting sins.