Bedtime theology with the 10 yo… 

(after getting takeout ice cream)

Me: I can’t believe they messed up our order that bad! They got all four of our ice creams wrong. And they weren’t even that busy in there tonight.

10 yo: Maybe they were just tired.

Me: That is a kind way to think about it. That reminds me of Martin Luther’s explanation of the 8th commandment.

10 yo: Huh?

Me: The 8th commandment says don’t lie and say things that aren’t true about others. Luther said that it’s not just avoiding certain actions but also what we should do. He said that in addition to not lying, we should explain our neighbor’s actions in the kindest way. And that’s what you did. And in the 5th commandment where it says not to kill, Luther said it also means taking care of other’s physical needs, like food and clothes.

10 yo: He should have just re-written the commandments.

It's not a bad time to brush up on the 10 Commandments, especially if they're about to be posted in a classroom near you. As a Christian, I hope not. Don't mistake me - I've oriented my life around a career that includes teaching and preaching on the principles of the commandments. But Jesus did not blend the kingdom of God with empire. Imagine Jesus waving a Roman Empire flag or complaining that the 10 Commandments weren't posted in Roman schools. His kingdom is not of this world and he wasn't about to use the government to push his religious agenda. Critique of the empire' s corruption was a hill he was willing to die on.

That said, I have chose to align my life with the 10 Commandments, and I feel better about them now that when I had to memorize them plus Martin Luther's explanations of them in 8th grade Confirmation class. The commandments seemed an impossible standard. Even as a child, I knew I was breaking them. I didn't always listen to my parents. I definitely coveted my neighbor's acid washed Guess jeans and boombox (#1980s problems). I sometimes told a lie. Martin Luther's explanation made it worse. I've never killed anyone - check! Oh, but sometimes I do fail to help others with their basic needs. I didn't lie today - check! Oh, but I did assume the worst about a kid at school who was different and unpopular. The 10 Commandments were a bit of a drag, like a nagging parent. 

I would not say I had an overnight epiphany that causes me to adore the 10 Commandments and want them posted in every school in my city. Again, no. My faith journey doesn't require everyone else to be forced onto the road. But I have come to think about the commandments differently as I think about a relationship with a loving God. 

The 10 Commandments can be loosely divided into two sections. The first section (commandments 1-4) are about our relationship with God. The second section (5-10) are about our relationship with others. The harmony of living into right relationship with God and with others is so sweet. God's desire isn't to punish us but for us to be in those right relationships, the kind that make us feel whole and peaceful. And a good way to get into right relationships, it turns out, is by keeping the commandments. I can break the 8th commandment all day long, but honestly, it doesn't feel good in my soul. You know the feeling when you're deeply connected in a loving relationship? I think of the commandment as the guardrails to nudge me closer. 

We all need boundaries. Healthy boundaries make our kids feel safe. When kids feel safe, they can learn. 

I'm not sure if my kids have much affection for the 10 Commandments (probably not), but having a pastor mom means sometimes you discuss them over ice cream. It took my 10-year-old to remind me to more fully keep the 8th commandment. And you know what? It felt pretty good. 


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