How many times in life do we take the opportunity to think differently about a topic we think we know enough about (thank you very much!) or about which we have a well-established (and correct) opinion (again, thank you very much!)?
Sometimes teenage children open our eyes to new ways of thinking; occasionally it’s an inspirational sermon or Sunday school lesson; once in a while a dynamic politician; a changed family situation; or involvement in a cause can help us see an issue from a different point of view.
Can you recall such occurrences in your life of faith and service?
The 2019–2020 Presbyterian Women/Horizons Bible Study presents just this opportunity with the Ten Commandments.
Eugenia Gamble, author of Love Carved in Stone: A Fresh Look at the Ten Commandments, takes us on a journey through this well-known scripture and frames it as a Love Letter from God, rather than a list of do’s and don’ts. In the study, the customary language of “Commandments” and “list of rules” changes to “Words” and “love letter.”
These minor differences in language help us begin to reframe how we think about the Ten Commandments and lead us to a fresh way to interact with the world and with God.
We reformed Christians may have mixed feelings about these ancient commandments.
How do they fit in with our understanding of forgiveness through the grace of Jesus Christ?
The Commandments provide a good moral compass; detailed examples of the two great Commandments to love God and love neighbor are helpful.
But, how relevant are the Commandments to our post-modern Christian life?
Do we dismiss some of the words without delving below the surface of the words on the page?
We say we would never knowingly commit theft, murder, or adultery.
My parents have died so “honor father and mother” isn’t a challenge for me.
At this point in my life, I have everything I need so coveting isn’t a serious temptation.
We church-going folks do our part to keep the Sabbath.
With these rationalizations, it is tempting to boil the Commandments down to the four, maybe five, that requires diligence in our daily living.
The author asserts that there is more, much more, to each Word of Love from God.
If we look below the surface, we see the Ten Words as ways God works to be in more intimate community with God’s people.
For example, the Fourth Word, keep the Sabbath, calls us, regularly and without fail, to stop and rest in the God who provides for us and for the whole human family.
The Eighth Word, do not steal, addresses more than bank robbery or white-collar crime.
It reminds us not to take from others—not their possessions, their self-esteem, or their livelihood.
In the study, we ponder how our choices take from or lift up others.1
The study includes time in each lesson to set the Words in context as they were heard by the exiled Jews, reflect on what Jesus said on the subject, and explore how Jesus honored the ancient Word.
Groups who do the study together can consider individually and collectively what the Word means in their daily lives and in the lives of their families, churches, and communities.
I encourage you to consider this interesting and challenging take on the Ten Commandments for your Presbyterian Women’s (PW) group or for other study groups in your congregation.
Ordering information and an overview of the study, can be found on the PW website.
Author Eugenia Gamble will be traveling to and speaking in presbyteries and synods around the country throughout the year, including a two-and-a-half-day workshop at Columbia Theological Seminary in August.
Over my 20+ years of small group Bible study through Presbyterian Women, my learning and transformation have been greatly enhanced during the years I have met and heard from the Bible study author directly.
I encourage Bible Study leaders and other circle members to take advantage of this great opportunity to interact with the author at Columbia in August.
For more information and to register for the Presbyterian Women/Horizons Bible Study, Love Carved in Stone: A Fresh Look at the Ten Commandments, click here.
Mary Martin is a member of Saint Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Dunwoody and has a long involvement in Presbyterian Women at the congregation, presbytery, synod and churchwide levels. She served as the chair of the Presbyterian Women Churchwide Gathering held in Louisville, Kentucky in August 2018. Her other church involvement includes teaching Sunday School and playing handbells at her church, and she has served as the Moderator of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta. Professionally, her career was in the telecommunications field, at AT&T and Nokia, from which she retired in late 2017.
She and her husband Billy have been married for 40 years and have two children. Betsy is a minister serving the Stockbridge, Georgia Presbyterian Church. Their son John lives in Birmingham, Alabama and works for the United Way of Central Alabama. Mary relishes time with their four grandchildren, a girl (age 7) and three boys (ages 4, 1 and a newborn).
1 “Love Carved in Stone: A Fresh Look at the Ten Commandments” promotional flier.