The Thing Speaks For Itself

There is a phrase in law, res ipsa loquitur, meaning, “The thing speaks for itself.” This recognizes that we already understand innately or instinctively whether our actions or words are appropriate or undeserved, healing or hurting, good or evil. [We probably picked up on this when Adam and Eve took that bite of forbidden fruit, likely, of the “Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.”⁠1]

Perhaps, the door was opened by the ancient philosophers when they introduced what we call logic into our thought process and since then we have honed this intellectual tool to explain away something we shouldn’t do as justifiable. In the court of public opinion wrong is considered right when something is seen as normal. When everybody’s doing it, it must be okay.

Christians go a step further hoping that God’s grace will overlook something they [we?] did or said that was hurtfully wrong [and we knew it] but Christ went to the cross to forgive. “There is no condemnation to those in Christ,” St. Paul reminded us.  …but have we missed the part about “walking in the Spirit”!

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. – Romans 12:1

This is not an exposé on this verse in Romans; so, we’ll save that idea, hopefully, for another day. This is a glaring look at another idea: Is the Bible clear about right and wrong or is there leeway in interpretation that gives us a certain freedom of action and word without sin. Francis Shaeffer of the L’Abri community in Switzerland referred to this as “freedom within limits.” If the Bible doesn’t clearly say it’s wrong, maybe it’s alright to do, …at least for me!

Res Ipsa Loquitur.
But sometimes the message is so obvious that to describe it is only an attempt at explaining it away. A biblical idea can always be set aside as an ancient cultural norm—no longer contemporary, even when we know it should be!

For example, how might we make Paul’s admonition any clearer: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace⁠2   Peace is a “state of tranquility …exempt from rage….”⁠3 The second verse in the NASB says how: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” We need no sermon to explain words like humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and love—unless we want to justify rage, unless we seek a definition of forgiveness that condones distancing ourselves from people we once loved. When I attempt lengthy explanations to defend what I know is evil, I effectively do an end-around conscience, and worse, I do a grave injustice to my best friend—me!

We live in a politically charged time and it is easier right now to hate than to love, to feel enraged rather than a desire to reconcile, to imagine a future without them rather than a nostalgia that wants them back in our lives.

The message of scripture is clearer than we, at times, wish to admit.  Mark Twain quipped, “It is not what I don’t know about the Bible that bothers me; it is what I know.” No one needs to explain to me a need to love and be loved. No one needs to clarify the role of peace in my relationships and how to encourage reconciliation and unity.  And conversely, I know when I am hurting others or attempting to end a once vibrant and meaningful relationship.

The thing speaks for itself.

1 Genesis 2:9; 3:6 The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
2 Ephesians 4:3.
3 Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 182
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