"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." -Romans 13:8-10
The confirmation process in my childhood church was a three-year endeavor with weekly lessons during Sunday school, monthly workshops with the pastor on Sunday afternoons, and a week-long summer camp after eighth grade. It was during one of the Sunday afternoon workshops that I remember Pastor Fred talking about the ten commandments. Obviously by the seventh grade we were familiar with the commandments and, as part of the confirmation class, had memorized them to recite on demand.
I had never given the commandments a lot of thought because, honestly, I worshiped God (just the one) on the Sabbath each week, had been prohibited my whole life from using God’s name inappropriately, was respectful to my parents, honest, didn’t have a husband to be unfaithful to, and certainly wasn’t killing or stealing. That left only coveting and, really, if there is a thirteen-year-old kid in this world who would say they have never wanted something someone else has, they are guilty of bearing false witness, so I figured I was doing okay. And then Pastor Fred told us that stealing includes copying cassette tapes, that picking on my little brother is “murdering” his spirit, and that if making the regional band is more important to me than spending time in prayer, God isn’t my only god. That is the only part of the lesson I remember because it filled my rule-following heart with horror.
Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments…are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
I’m speculating here but perhaps the purpose of that confirmation lesson was to arrive at this passage from the book of Romans. We could argue about semantics - whether a small omission of truth really constitutes a lie or justify our poor choices by comparing them to the worse choices of others. We can demand that those around us follow the rules according to our own righteous interpretation. Or, alternatively, we can choose to base our words and actions on what is in the best interest of our neighbor. We want to be right all the time and it’s so much easier to use the law to condemn the things we see happening around us than it is to look inward and ask ourselves If we are acting in love toward those we might condemn.