Thursday, June 3, 2010

When You Shouldn't Demand the Best Construction

I think that one of the most neglected parts of the Catechism is that wonderful line of the meaning to the 8th Commandment - put the best construction on everything (explain everything in the kindest way). What's so beautiful is that it is *active* - that we are required to be active in this, not simply passive, but we are to actively defend others with gentleness.

However, it is important to note that this is a defending of "others" - never ones own self. The Commandments are never meant to be self-serving. The Commandments are never meant for me to be demand that someone cut me some slack. They instruct us how we are to love God and our neighbor.

It seems as though whenever someone is criticized in the Church for whatever foolish plan or proposal they happen to have, there is the constant refrain to "put the best constructions on things." This is improper. The 8th commandment is not about bullying people into not opposing you. The 8th commandment is not about making people think better things about your ideas. The 8th commandment is about dealing gently and fairly with people. . . but not about making things up.

For example - I can rightly say, "While I think many of the restructuring proposals for the LCMS are a bad idea, and some of the politics involved are heavy handed, no one should be vilified for this." That is an example of putting the best construction - I don't assign any ulterior motives that I can't know, I don't demand personal action.

Because in addition to putting the best construction on things, we are also to be theologians of the cross, and a theologian of the cross calls a thing what it is. If something is a bad idea, we call it a bad idea - not out of hatred for the person proposing the idea, not out of a desire for personal power, but out of love for those who would be impacted by the bad idea.

We show love to the neighbor at all times - and if abuses are heaped upon us, we rejoice in that we share in the sufferings of Christ. My Christian friends, do not use the 8th Commandment as a way of elevating your own power.

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

Regarding what Martin Luther says in the Large Catechism, the best construction is, by definition, substantiated truth. Speaking the truth about something that is publicly said or publicly done cannot be regarded as evil or contrary to the eighth commandment.

However in speaking about a person's private words or actions which cannot be substantiated, Luther states, "False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved. This also applies to accusations about motivations of the heart, which have not been publicly disclosed, even for public words or actions.

Luther does present some exceptions: civil government, preachers, father and mother.

In the case of the civil government, the prosecutor and witnesses in a trial are obvious examples of those who may speak evil against an innocent (until convicted) person, just as the executioner, as well the justifiable use of deadly force by a policeman, soldier and citizen, are exceptions to the fifth commandment.

The exception of father and mother regarding disciplining of their children, is also clear.

The reference to a preacher presumably deals with banning the impenitent from receiving the Lord's Supper.