OATH OF OFFICE
On Friday, January 20, 2017, the nation will evidence the swearing in ceremony (aka “Oath of Office”) of the President Elect. Traditionally an oath is either a statement of fact or a promise of performance, with wording relating to something considered sacred (often the Bible) as a sign of verity. In the New Testament, believers are taught not to make oaths, but rather to let their “yes” mean “yes” and “no” mean “no” (James 5:12). Consequently, if one is conscientiously opposed to swearing on a bible, an acceptable legal substitute is the giving of an affirmation of truthfulness.
In reality, we should consider all our words to have the weight of an oath; thereby making it possible for others to be able to trust our words without requiring an oath. But notice, in this traditional way of taking an oath by calling some sacred object to mind, the idea is that our commitment to truth may be weak and would be strengthened by the desire not to desecrate the sacred object we are swearing by. The assumption is that by placing our hand on the sacred object, we are upping our commitment to tell the truth— or we will desecrate the sacredness of the object by our lying. Obviously, this precludes that we consider the object (the Bible) sacred in the first place.
So, the Bible was traditionally used in court because it was, once upon a time, a universally held treasure of holiness in the culture that no one but the most hardened person would want to desecrate by swearing by it and then lying through his teeth right after he had put his hand on the Bible that he is now desecrating. May we all acquiesce to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37: “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one (NLT)”