You Just Love.
So here’s how I thought the study would go:
1. Read the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20, note how simple they are. Black and white. Don’t do this, don’t do that, and you’re good. So graciously clear.
2. Read Romans 13:8-10, where Paul says, “All the commandments – don’t kill each other, don’t lie to each other, yada yada yada – are summed up in this word: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Note how complicated that is. Love is more than “mind your own business.” Love is not black and white; it’s murky gray decision-making space, obscuring a rainbow of confusing beauty and trouble. It requires more from me than the Big Ten. I can’t just ignore my neighbor (or that stranger or even my enemy). I have to love them. Lord have mercy.
3. Everybody agrees with these conclusions; we finish our beer; we go home.
But here’s how it actually went. First we read Exodus 20, and noted the simplicity of the Ten. “Yes, exactly,” I affirmed.
Then we read Romans 13 and talked about love, and the obligation to love, and the complication of being told to love, etc. etc. etc. We were on the right track, headed directly to the pre-planned station of my imagining.
And then she spoke up, the young woman who hadn’t made much noise all night. Here’s what she said, best I can remember:
“I don’t know if it’s so hard. I was raised to believe the Ten Commandments, you know, in a religious school, and we memorized them. And the whole time I was there, one of the adults there was molesting me, and the other adults knew about it, I’m pretty sure, and they were the ones teaching me the Ten Commandments. And I would have probably killed them if I could.
“But it’s been a while, and what I’ve finally figured out is that when you don’t have anything else, when you can’t do anything else, you can always love. Love is simple. It’s not that hard. You just love, you find a way to love from your heart, and that’s all you need. That’s all there is. Just the love.”
She took a sip of her beer and looked at her hands in her lap.
Nobody breathed for a long time. We probably should have finished our beers in that holy silence and gone home, but of course there are always more words. Words of comfort and confirmation, though she was asking for neither. Words of conclusion and wrapping-it-all-up, though they fell far short. And, after a little while, words that drifted back to our present; a return to the beautiful, breezy night on the taco bar patio with the Bible. And with her, reminding us that it’s not supposed to be that hard. You just love.