The heavenly hosts look at the subject and shake their heads. “Okay, let’s go in,” one says to the other.
In a flash, they’re standing before a startled woman who stumbles back in shock. “Do I know you?” she asks.
“I’m Cleo,” one offers.
“And I’m Stephania,” chirps the other.
“And we’re the heavenly hosts of ‘What Not to Swear!’”
“But I don’t understand,” the woman stutters.
“Your family nominated you . . . “
“Nominated me?” the woman interrupts.
“Through their prayers,” Stephania clarifies.
“Come over here,” Cleo says, pointing to a makeshift studio to their right. “We’ve been collecting some secret footage.”
“Secret footage?” the woman repeats as she’s led by her arm to the studio.
“You’re always being watched, you know,” Cleo says. A shudder goes up the woman’s spine.
They sit on some tall, uncomfortable chairs – whether it was the chairs that were uncomfortable or just the situation, only the hosts knew – and began to show the footage.
The woman is in her boss’ office. “Yes, I’ll make sure the report is complete before the end of the day, Mr. Seymour,” she assures him. But a fast-forward to the end of the day shows her shutting down her computer in the middle of her work while muttering, “He can’t possibly expect me to finish this today.”
The woman squirms on her increasingly uncomfortable chair. “Well, I couldn’t possibly finish it that day. He was being completely unreasonable,” she says defensively.
“Let’s watch some more footage,” Stephania says.
Another scene pops up, this time as she talks on her phone from her living room. “Brent and Carol are having serious marriage problems. Pray for them. But don’t tell them I told you. They told me in confidence,” she almost whispers into the phone.
Fast-forward to another phone call: “What do you mean, I told people about your marriage problems, Carol? Why would I do that? Don’t you think I have enough problems of my own?”
More squirming. “I only shared what she told me as a prayer request,” the woman explains. “It’s not my fault other people blabbed what they heard.” But the woman’s head hangs in shame.
Cleo and Stephania exchange glances. “Let’s watch one more scene,” Cleo says.
“Do we have to?” the woman pleads.
“Just one more,” Cleo insists.
The woman is in her car is what seems like an interminable line of traffic. Then, to her obvious dissatisfaction – expressed through a series of exclamations that would make the father on A Christmas Story blush – someone tries to change lanes right in front of her, only augmenting the backup and her stream of obscenities.
Cleo and Stephania silently stare at the woman.
“Okay, come on!” the woman shouts. “As if you wouldn’t respond the same way!” She folds her arms and pouts childishly. “Don’t give me that holier-than-thou attitude!”
Awkward silence follows. Finally, the woman sighs, “Whatever. Go ahead. Let’s hear it.”
“We have nothing to say to you,” Cleo starts. The woman looks relieved. “But God does:
But I tell you, do not swear at all; either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no.’ Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
– Matthew 5:34-37,”
“But there was no way to finish it!” the woman says tearfully.
Stephania looks with compassion on the woman. “Don’t promise more than you can or you intend to do, my friend,” she says, putting a comforting hand on the woman’s shoulder.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” the woman sighs again. “And I have to admit my boss wasn’t happy, and it probably cost me a promotion I’ve been wanting.”
“There’s a cost to sin,” Cleo says gently.
The woman starts at the word “sin.” She had never considered breaking an oath to be sin. She squirmed again.
Stephania broke the momentary silence. “We’ll address the last two incidents with one Scripture:
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
– Colossians 3:8-10
Like breaking an oath, lying and cursing are also sin,” the host said.
“I knew that,” the crying woman said quietly. “I did. But it’s hard.” Her brow furrowed. “It’s hard to live for Christ.”
“But we bring you good news,” Cleo says, brightening. “Listen to this:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.
– Hebrews 4:15
“And then there’s this,” Cleo continued:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:9
“We serve a gracious God,” Stephania said.
“Yes, we do,” the woman said, a smile crossing her tear-stained face. Then she bowed her head and silently prayed. Lifting her head up and smiling more broadly, she repeated with confidence, “Yes, we do.”
Cleo clapped her hands and turned to Stephania. “Well, I believe another transformation is underway. What about you?”
Stephania helped the woman out of her chair and led her in front of a mirror. “What do you see?”
The woman’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. “I . . . I don’t know what to say,” she exclaimed. How could she describe the beauty and purity of what she saw? No words came to her.
“That is how God sees you,” Cleo said.
“And I believe this concludes this episode of ‘What Not to Swear’!” Stephania said excitedly. In a flash, the hosts were gone.
The woman looked around. Everything was as it had been before – well, not everything.