“If you sin by not stepping up and offering yourself as a witness to something you’ve heard or seen in cases of wrongdoing, you’ll be held responsible.” (Leviticus 5:1 MSG)
In the middle of verse after verse describing the details of the sacrificial system, I ran across this verse that I don’t remember seeing before. We live in a culture that places high value on independence. We say that we can do whatever we want if it does not harm someone else. We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it. God knows that this will eventually destroy a community.
There were no jails and no police force when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. The community was self-policing and restitution and sacrifice were the tools of justice. Conviction of wrongdoing had to be confirmed by more than one witness, so witnesses were essential to maintaining justice.
My first thought is that being a witness took great courage. That’s because I immediately think I would be on my own in such a situation. There is that independence thing again. The Israelites were not alone. They lived in very close community. If they desired for their community to stay healthy it was important to identify sin quickly, both for the benefit of the community and of the person who sinned.
We think we are different. Many people attempt to isolate themselves from community and often to relieve themselves of responsibility. God did not design us that way. He designed us to live in relationship to Him and to other people. He did this to encourage us to grow to be like Him. I think the following verse captures this idea from a New Testament perspective:
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)
The essential element for a growing healthy body is the willingness of the members of the body to speak the truth out of a desire for the best for every member of the body. Keeping silent when we see something wrong is not a virtue. Why are we so afraid to speak the truth?
For my grandchildren:
Tell the truth because you want your family to be better.