Words of Love: A Healing Journey with the Ten Commandments

Jane Tuma reviews Eugenia Anne Gamble's latest book.

Eugenia Anne Gamble
Westminster John Knox Press, 222 pages | Published February 22, 2022

In our secular society, it feels like the Ten Commandments are not very relevant to our cultural conversation. The last time I recall public discourse around the commandments was in 2003 when a federal judge ruled that a monument in an Alabama state building must be moved. Eugenia Anne Gamble, a PC(USA) pastor serving an Alabama congregation, was on study leave in Canada when she turned on the TV and witnessed the uproar. One protester threw himself on the monument and declared, “You will not remove my God!” Gamble was horrified because the protesters seemed to confuse a monument with God. But she was also fascinated by the passion of the protesters. A question began to stir in her own heart: “Are you, Eugenia, wild for the Word?”

Gamble has explored that question on her own and with groups and the result is a marvelous book that delves deeply into the commandments and their relevance to our lives today. Words of Love would be a meaningful resource for adult education, small groups and individual study, brought to life with the spiritual practices and reflection questions that conclude each chapter.

Based on her study of the Hebrew text, Gamble notes that what we refer to as the “Ten Commandments” are not commandments but rather utterances or what she simply calls “Words” from God. Rather than being a simple list of dos and don’ts, God’s Words have the power to bring beloved community into being. Gamble draws on life experiences and a wide variety of resources to show how these Words have the power to heal our personal and collective lives. For example, with “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2), she reflects on her fear as she entered a new relationship after a divorce. The man who became her second husband looked at her one day, held her face and assured her that he was not the one who hurt her; he was her guy, and she was safe. In a similar way, God makes a declaration of love that “gives us courage to confront the past, to stand up to the powers and to move into a different way of life.”

Gamble addresses the difficulty of fully living into God’s Words. She explores what it might look like for those who grew up in abusive homes to honor those who gave them life. In exploring the sixth Word, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), Gamble draws on Talmudic wisdom and John Calvin to challenge us to see how we might be complicit in murder when we kill the spirits of others by ignoring social ills. Similarly, in the eighth Word, “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15), she points out that stealing can also occur through White supremacy, cultural appropriation and over-consumption of the world’s resources. We can even steal our own joy when we try to meet others’ expectations! I highly recommend Words of Love and believe it may spark new understandings of the life God wishes for us.

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