Violation of Oaths

By Rev. Fr. Eva Chuma Nnamene

When we take oaths, we invoke God to the witness. God Himself authorized us to swear in His Name when He said "you shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him, and swear by His Name" (Deuteronomy 6: 13). In other words, every oath taken, has God as its witness. And as such, when we violate our oaths, we offend Him.

This offence is simply clear; when we violate our oath, we bear false witness against God. Bearing false witness against God directly infringes the 2nd Commandment: "you shall not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain" (Exodus 20: 7). Anytime we violate our oath, we break this particular commandment because the God whom we invoked under oath is betrayed.

However, there are circumstances where one cannot but violate an oath. Such circumstances nullify our obligations under oath - where we were coerced to take the oath. And if one is duly informed before the oath is taken, it is even recommended that such oaths be avoided. There are only two of such circumstances:

1. When an oath requires what God forbids: Oaths that oblige people to do what God forbids are sinful, and such, should be violated. As we have stated clearly above and in other editions of this topic, God is invoked to be the witness of every oath we take; when a person therefore, takes oath in order to fulfill what God forbade, how can God be invoked to witness to such oath?

2. When an oath forbids what God requires: Oaths that mandate people to forbid what God requires of them, or of their society, or of their state - as the case may be, should be violated. Since God is invoked as witness to our oaths, how can He witness to an oath that forbade what He requires of us?

In human language, taking such oaths would be tantamount to shooting oneself in the leg. You just can't imagine such absurdity. But the fact remains that, our society is replete with such oaths. Some people take the lives of others, and swear on oath never to divulge the information. Such oaths come against what God forbade human beings from doing.

It is in the first set of oaths that should never be taken, or when they are erroneously taken, one should never be obliged to fulfill them. At times one could hear stories about some families or communities, that their forefathers swore on oath never to accept Christianity or to accept western development.

As ridiculous as those stories may sound, one could find artefacts pointing to the possible veracity of such stories. We are not saying that such stories are true or not, but oftentimes, such oaths are taken under certain deities the people believe to be powerful. Oaths like that jeopardize the wellbeing of that particular family or community.

Often, when members of such families or communities become Christians or venture into Christianity, they either live in fears or make no progress in their followership of Christ. It is possible they are retarded because of their devilish oaths. Oaths are obligatory when they do not forbid what God requires or require what God forbids. But what can a Christian do when he/she is forced to take a devilish oath? Our next edition will attempt answering that question.

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