Monday, March 15, 2010

40 day Journey with Martin Luther (Augsburg Books) Day 13: My Favorite Commandment To Break

"We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light." --Martin Luther

A colleague of mine loves to say, "The Eighth Commandment is my favorite one to break." I'm not sure if it's my favorite commandment to break, but there is a certain satisfaction in breaking it. There's a certain kind of remorse I experience when I have another god in place of God. I eventually come to a realization regarding God's identity. Killing and stealing? Though I may be able to eek out a justification of the behavior that Luther says is the spirit of those commandments, I nod my head and acknowledge that these are good for not only a just and orderly society, but for a society that thrives.

There are times when I get energy from righteous indignation against another human being. I am right, after all. Not only am I right in my thinking, but how dare someone infringe upon my rightness in the world? That kind of rightness enables me to spew all kinds of vitriol to slash and burn everyone in my path. Luther's teaching is hard to swallow, because in the midst of my confidence in the rightness of my thinking and action is a call to interpret everything my neighbor does in the best possible light. This positive interpretation is hard because it is so fun to be right. Although it is not as fun when I see the impact on my neighbor of righteous indignation. Which means it is important to see my neighbor. Which also means that it's not as fun to be right as I originally thought it was. If breaking the Eighth Commandment was ever my most favorite to break, it's not anymore.

If there was ever a commandment that could be followed in the spirit of Luther's interpretation, I think following this one would really change the world. Fox News and MSNBC would go out of business or completely change format. Media outlets would be turned on their head. Congregations and places of work would change. In breaking this commandment, killing, stealing, coveting, dishonoring father and mother are born from the transgression of this commandment. Interpreting our neighbor's action in the best possible light is a reflection of Christ's mercy.

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