Lesson One — Words of Love: I Am Your God; You Shall Have No Others
The First and Second Words
Primary Scripture: Exodus 20:1–6 and Matthew 22:34–37
God is Your One and Only Love and Nothing Else Will Do
Two weeks ago, my husband Robbie and I moved from the central coast of California to my childhood home in Alabama. Moving always requires an adjustment. Moving from a home built in the 1990’s with tons of storage to a home built in the 1850’s with not one kitchen cabinet is daunting indeed. For Robbie, born in the Bronx, raised on Long Island, and a Californian since 1970, the heat, humidity, shaking foundations, and peeling paint have left him alternately wild-eyed and stoic. Earlier in the week when the pest control technician arrived to begin that all too necessary service, I told him about our move. He looked at Robbie, looked at the house, and said, “You must love her a lot.” To move from one place to another for love, is what the Ten Commandments are all about. Love takes us places we never dreamed we could go.
From the moment that human beings decided that we wanted what we wanted more than what God wanted, God has been in the business of helping us come to our senses and awaken to the amazing life of love, peace, joy, and intimacy for which we were all created. As you approach your work on Love Carved in Stone this year, open yourselves to seeing these ancient words as a love letter, or maybe even as God’s wedding vows. In these Words, God outlines a way of life into which we are invited, asks us to commit to that life, and returns that commitment.
The biggest hurdle many of us face when we work with the Ten Words is to see them as a passionate outpouring of love rather than a harsh list of requirements. To do that we may be required to look at God in a new way. If you find that you most often relate to God as a remote and demanding force, a force looking for ways to punish you into submission, then, naturally, the Ten Words will seem like a list of unachievable laws, the sole purpose of which is to convince us of our unworthiness and inability to live as we ought. There is truth to the fact that we constantly fall short of God’s original intention for us and need to be reminded of what God’s intention is. No argument. We would not need a savior otherwise. Still, I submit that the Words come to us not from God’s anger or despair, but from God’s deep love and desire; not to punish or shame, but to protect us from the pain and hardship that our out-of-hand egos so often create.
The Ten Words are all about love. They are all about the life of love. They are all about the God of love. 100% completely! Love. Love changes people and communities. Living within its boundaries is how we come to our senses.
A number of years ago while I was a pastor in the Denver area, we had a small weekly women’s group. One week, Jane came bursting in late and flustered. She was a special education teacher and as she flopped into her seat, she burst into tears. She had a student that she simply could not reach. She could tell that he was a bright little boy but no matter what method she tried, she could not teach him to read. He said the letters seemed to jump around the page. The Sunday evening before, I had seen a segment on 60 Minutes about a similar situation. The teacher in the segment discovered that if she put colored plastic over the pages of a book, the letters stopped leaping around for her students and they began to read. I told this story to Jane. The next day she tried it. Sure enough, within a week the little boy was reading! All it took to stop the jumble that made his world impossible to comprehend, was a sheet of colored plastic.
In the first lesson of Love Carved in Stone, I hope that you will allow the Love of God to be the colored plastic through which you look at the Words. Receiving the love of God, reciprocating the love of God, ordering life in light of the love of God, is what the Ten Words are all about. Life and the world begin to change when viewed through this lens. Lesson One: God is your one and only love and nothing else will do.
Eugenia Anne Gamble
Author of the 2019–2020 PW/Horizons Bible Study
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