Wally suggested that I write about the first Commandment (You shall have no other God), and maybe I will at some point, but today I am reflecting on the eighth Commandment (You shall not bear false witness) with a little fifth Commandment (You shall not murder) thrown in for good measure.
So, do I really have to tell THAT Guy About Jesus?
Well, to be honest, that’s not something I personally struggle with – it’s never occurred to me that THAT guy isn’t worthy of being told about his salvation in Christ; no matter what I think about THAT guy, it’s not a barrier (for me) to speak the truth to him. It’s not because I am a “better” Christian than those who might struggle with this, not at all. I am simply “hardwired” to be friendly to all. It’s in my nature. I will talk to anybody, and if we talk long enough, sooner or later, Jesus is gonna come out.
Nor do I wish to shame those who do struggle in this area. I get it, I really do.
The truth is, I am so, so judgmental.
I keep it to myself – I don’t broadcast my internal judgments out loud – but the stuff that I think in my head about other people is vile. Stuff that, if I were to say it out loud, I would be ashamed for saying.
I see the young, single mom, still in her pajamas, hair hastily pulled back into an unkempt ponytail, coming up the pathway. She’s just dropped off her oldest child at school and she will now, as she does every morning, stop her stroller in front of my stoop where I sit with my morning coffee. She wants to chat.
Inwardly, I sigh, because she’s disturbing my peace, harshing my mellow, you know? I just wanna enjoy my coffee in peace, check my blog feed (and facebook, of course); have a little time to myself before I have to start my day.
Oh God, I think to myself, what does the crackwhore want now?
As far as I know, she is neither a whore, nor does she do crack, but for some reason I think it’s ok to make these private judgments about my neighbour, to dehumanize her in my thoughts. It’s not like I’m saying it out loud to anybody, right? As long as I keep it to myself, I’m not sinning (or so I tell myself).
And yet, the commandment You shall not bear false witness insists otherwise. Refraining from publicly speaking my private judgments aloud isn’t good enough – it ain’t enough to simply restrain my outward sin but still allow my inner thoughts to have free reign. The eighth Commandment would have me restrain those horrid inner judgments every bit as much as outward judgments.
This commandment tells us not just what we should not do – tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him or hurt his reputation – it also tells us what we ought to do as well – defend our neighbour, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way.
According to the eighth commandment, I am not free to think of my neighbour as a bothersome crackwhore, it compels me to see her as she is – a single parent who struggles to stay on top of her various responsibilities (regardless of how I may privately judge her ability to do so). And she’s probably lonely to boot.
From that perspective, well, she’s not all that different from me. It humanizes her, renders her relatable; shows me her need and how I might serve her.
This young woman doesn’t need my secret disdain, she needs my compassion.
And so I put aside my phone and give her my attention, even though I’d really rather be doing something else and wish she would go away. God has placed her right in front of me, to show her the love of Christ, in the words that I speak to her and my actions towards her.
She knows I am a Christian; I know that she has (thusfar) rejected the notion that she is in need of a Saviour, much less One with a whole bunch of un-fun rules attached to Him. Christianity, to her, is for suckers and hypocrites. The irony, of course, is that it is my Christian conviction that compels me to engage her in the first place, to see her as a soul in need of the love of God. It matters not that she has flatly rejected God’s greatest love towards her – and has made it clear that she’s not interested in hearing about it – that doesn’t disqualify her from being a recipient of whatever form of God’s love that I am called to shower upon her in this moment.
I can make time to chat with her when she is lonely.
I can help her with her children when she is tired.
I can give her encouragement when she is feeling overwhelmed.
There’s a million little ways that I can show the love of Christ towards her without speaking a single word.
She may distrust this Jesus that I speak of, but she is learning that she can trust me, His follower. I will show her that my love for her goes all the way, that my interest in her is not solely so I can “convert her”. She is free to reject the Gospel and while she does, yet will I love her. Perhaps in this way, she will see a picture of the love the Lord has for her.
Speak the Gospel, in season and out.
Perhaps I will still be in her life when her season comes and she is brought to the end of herself, when she knows that what she desperately needs more than anything else is forgiveness. On that day, I will tell her, You already are. The forgiveness that you so desperately seek has already been won for you! I will speak pure, sweet Gospel to her, of unearned forgiveness poured over her.
On that day, I will only do what I have been doing all along, just loving her in the moment.
That’s what the Lord gives us.
Moments in which the Lord places a neighbour in front of us so that we may respond to their need in that moment.
Moment by moment, we are asking ourselves, How can I best love my neighbour, right now?
That’s all. Just love in the moment.
Wow. There’s so much more that could be said here – I didn’t even get around to connecting it to the fifth commandment! This ended up going in a different direction than I first anticipated; it ended up being more of a real life example of how the Commandments shape my Christian love toward neighbour, as well as the deeper ways in which I must ever restrain my sin. And paradoxically, it illustrates that when I restrain my sin, ever better works pour forth for my neighbour.
Maybe I’ll put it to you guys.
How do you think the commandment You shall not murder is at play in this scenario with my neighbour? How does this commandment show me my sin towards my neighbour (the young girl, I mean, and how I am tempted to think ill of her)? How does it instruct me in how I ought to love her instead?