Two or Three
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or against us?’
‘No!’ the Man said…” (Joshua 5:13,14a).
As an individual I have opinions about political issues and vote accordingly; but as a spokesman for the Church, I don’t take sides. If folks ask me if I’m on one side or the other I just say, “No.” Like the Man.
For one thing, I don’t want to limit my witness to members of one party. If I lean left how will my brothers on the right hear the gospel? If I lean right what will happen to those on my left. “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (I wonder how many Christians consider that issue when engaged in angry debate over some moot political point? They may win the debate and lose that soul for the gospel. That’s tragic.)
Additionally, I don’t embrace one political system or the other because I don’t believe that there is one human system that is necessarily biblical. Every human system is a combination of good and evil. The key to a good society is good men and women. Good people can make a bad system good; bad people can make a good system bad. Character matters.
(For the record, the only political system the Bible endorses is a benevolent monarchy.)
But I do want to address an issue that has political implications because I have a bit of pastoral concern. It has to do with the issue of uncorroborated witness and the way we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m not thinking of a particular individual involved in the current debate, but of a principle applicable to all.
The evidentiary principle of corroborated witness is well-established in our judicial system in the West. Some say the concept has its roots in Roman law, but actually the principle is sourced in scripture and predates Roman law by 1500 years or more.
“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15).
"But," you say, “that's Old Testament thinking. We're free from the Law." Indeed, but the principle is restated in the New Testament: "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2Corinthians 13:1).
Paul quotes this old text because he is preparing for a showdown with the Corinthians. Some of the leaders there had questioned his authority as an apostle and considered him a charlatan. They wanted the church to put him on trial. Bring it on, Paul says, but let's be true to the scriptures: "Any charge against me must be supported by the evidence of two or three witnesses."
The same requirement is incorporated into Jesus' instructions to his disciples (Matthew 18:16), and occurs in other contexts in the New Testament (John 8:17; 1Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:8).
This principle, imbedded in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New applies to us as Christians and is relevant to personal relationships as well as judicial proceedings. It’s a biblical mandate.
For me there is another biblical idea that is equally apropos: “Love believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). This is the Law of Love.
Love is not naive, but it does assume the best of others and does not judge a brother without compelling evidence of wrong-doing, a biblical parallel to the legal principle that we are innocent until proven guilty.
All of which goes to the notion that we must not permit our culture to establish our parameters. We have a higher standard.