"Put the Best Construction
"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
Exodus 20:16 NIV
This is the end of my week with you, so I’d like to go back to Luther one more time. Believe me, I understand that not every word from Brother Martin’s pen was golden, but he gave us some beautiful work and I am proud to be a Lutheran. (But not too proud, because that wouldn’t be Lutheran at all.)
Growing up Lutheran, one of the ways we learned about our faith and tradition was by studying Luther’s Small Catechism, a set of questions and answers about the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Luther’s exposition of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, showed me a new way of looking at it.
You know that the Ten Commandments are famous for being a mainly negative set of prohibitions, rather than positive duties—mostly “thou shalt not”, rather than, “thou shalt." But for each prohibition, Luther finds a corresponding positive duty to act as well. If you’d like to read, or re-read them all, the entire catechism is available online, as well as in two free apps, but today I’d like to share with you the one that comes to my mind most often.
The commandment I’m thinking of is “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Now as a child, all I thought that this meant was that I shouldn’t lie about my neighbor, or, if I’d been watching Perry Mason re-runs, I shouldn’t commit perjury.
But here’s what Luther says about this commandment:
“What does this mean? 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.”
Being hit with this forced me to start to mature in my faith. It had seemed pretty easy not to lie about my neighbor. But now I was faced with the fact that no matter how difficult I might find my neighbor or classmate—or younger sister—I was only to say kind things and try to see everything they did in the most favorable way, to put the best construction on everything. That seemed a much tougher proposition. For the first time I began to understand those words in our weekly confession, that I have sinned not only by what I have done, but what I have left undone.
Of course, the reason that this particular part of the catechism comes back to me is that I am still struggling with this…which brings me back to where we started this week. I finally started to realize how far I was from “being good” and how desperately I needed that undeserved grace. And by grace we have indeed been saved, through faith.
“When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.” Let’s walk through those doors together.
P.S.: Our thanks to Jenny for this wonderful week of reflection and sharing about our Lutheran tradition as we move towards our celebrations of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. They have been a wonderful gift and a blessing.
Posted on Fri, August 25, 2017
by Marie Blair