The Ten Commandments
I was in elementary school when I learned the Ten Commandments. My Sunday school teacher was a young mother who worked as a beautician. Her name was Karen. I really liked Karen. She was beautiful. She made a huge impression on me. So did the Ten Commandments.
Shortly after I learned the Ten Commandments from Karen, a scandal involving her broke out in our fair and tiny city. Karen got caught in a tryst with one of the three local restaurant owners. Her husband, the Maytag repairman, came by the restaurant after hours with a gun. Fortunately, no one was shot and hurt, and the big consequence afterward was that some couples played Fruit Basket Upset with their marriages.
Karen divorced the Maytag repairman and married the restaurant owner. The restaurant owner’s wife married the local cattle baron, the father of a classmate of mine named David Gordon. [https://gooseberrybush.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/out-damned-spot/] I’m not sure who ended up with the Maytag repairman.
To say that I felt personally betrayed by finding out that my Sunday school teacher was secretly breaking a commandment while teaching me the importance of not breaking commandments, well, that might be stretching it. But it did hurt me. I wondered if anyone was, indeed, sincere. Are all Christians hypocrites?
Well, all Christians are sinners, though we have a tendency to forget that sometimes. Someone called me judgmental a couple months ago, and that comment has been sitting in my craw ever since it was said, which, of course, was the speaker’s intention. Bullseye!
I don’t think I’m judgmental, but then I wouldn’t, would I? From a distance, I can be pretty judgmental. I judge the action and not so much the person. But then I was pretty harsh in calling Jesse James a poor excuse for a human being. [https://gooseberrybush.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/you-cant-love-someone-to-change/] I don’t know Jesse James personally, and maybe if I did know him personally I’d really love him and think he was a hell of a guy.
I tend to be very forgiving of the people who are my friends. I’ve had more than one good girlfriend, as an adult, who’s told me that she cheated on her husband or that she slept with another woman’s husband. While I didn’t throw a party for them, and they knew that I disapproved of the behavior, it was never something I felt the need to harp on or lose a friendship over.
Once, I was in the uncomfortable situation of being friends with both the wife and the other woman. I worked with them both. I stayed friends with them both. As far as I know, the wife never found out, but I wasn’t going to ask. And it wasn’t my place to tell. The married woman is still married to the same man. They have four children. The other woman re-met a guy she went to middle school with at a roller skating rink. They each have one child from a previous marriage. They married, bought a house, started going to church together as a family.
We all do things we’re not proud of sometimes. I’m not excluded. I could make a list as long as my arm in five minutes flat of the sins I’ve committed that I wish I hadn’t. But there’s no point in shame and regrets. The point is in repentance. It’s not as important where you are as in which direction you are traveling.
It’s easy to point fingers at people who do wrong and not as easy to see the good that people could do and don’t. Maybe Jesse James cheats on his wives right and left, but he’s also super generous and gives freely to charities. To see the opportunity to do good and then fail to do so, that is every bit as serious to God as breaking a commandment. It’s just not as easy to see for human beings.
I don’t see Karen as a hypocrite anymore, as an adult. I think she believed in the Ten Commandments, but she broke them anyway. Who knows what circumstances were going on in her life at the time? Maybe her first husband was inattentive or a drunkard or a wife beater. Maybe not. It wouldn’t excuse her infidelity, but it would provide a reason why a person might plausibly commit an act that they would otherwise consider abhorrent.
I know that act cost Karen a lot. You could tell by looking at her. She aged ten years overnight, and we only lived in that town for four years. Her face shrunk and wrinkled, and she looked agitated constantly. I’m sure the guilt ate at her, and I find it sad that she remained fixated on the Ten Commandments when she should have focused on the message of the Gospel instead.