The 11th Commandment

Elissa Johnk

“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?” – Mark 2:7-9

I have a theory: there was an 11th commandment that fell off the tablets.  (We already know Moses broke one set, and my tablet breaks all the time, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched.)

10. You shall not covet…a lot of things.
11. You shall feel incredibly guilty, unworthy and insecure if you break numbers 1-10 or do anything that anyone has ever considered less-than-perfect.

How else to explain what I hear every day?:

“I feel terrible – I was relieved when she died.”  (Said the son who took care of his mother with Alzheimer’s for six years.)

“My kids are messed up forever because I’m repeating my mother’s mistakes.  I once threw a packet of gum into the back seat because they wouldn’t stop fighting.  Oh, God, now I’ve dishonored my mother.  Oh, God, – and taken God’s name in vain. Twice.” (Said every parent ever.)

“If I were a better husband/friend/______ (insert your personalized noun here _____!), s/he wouldn’t have _____/gotten sick/taken-scissors-to-the-church’s-upholstered-chairs.”

Sometimes I think that we aren’t that different from the scribes.  We trust a little white pill can heal our bodies, but we are shocked at the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Creator of the Universe can heal our souls.

Yes, we must face our sins; no, we can’t ignore them.  But rules are rules because we break them; they aren’t meant to keep us away from God, but to draw us closer.

So how would life be different if you trusted you were forgiven?  Really trusted?

It’s time to figure it out, folks, because the only 11th commandment I know about is the one in John 13 – the one that says to love each other, because God loves us.

Yes, even – especially – you. 

Healing God, help me carry your forgiveness with me today like a prescription.  Remind me to take it out and look at it the next time I’m tempted to  guilt myself about _____ (“random” example: playing hooky to go tubing on a hot August day…).  Amen.

About the Author
Elissa Johnk is the Senior Pastor of The Old Meeting House, East Montpelier Center, Vermont.