Text: Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9
So, a quick question for you this morning: how many of you knew that the 10 Commandments were also in the book of Deuteronomy? (How many of you knew it first appears the book of Exodus? Chapter 20, in case you’re wondering) The 10 Commandments are sort of like Israel’s “U.S. Constitution”…..it’s their founding laws, and laws that even we Christians acknowledge as important to follow, part of our faith. In fact, I remember being taught the 10 Commandments as a kid, and studying them in Confirmation….maybe that was true for you too.
I thought we’d take a little quiz this morning: Who can tell me all the commandments? I’m not looking for exact wording, just how you remember them – or maybe how you were taught them.
Here’s a list; the 10 Commandments. Does it look familiar?
- God First
- Only God
- No cursing/swearing
- Rest on Sunday/Go to church
- Honor “Obey” your mom and dad
- No killing/murder
- Don’t cheat on your spouse (Sex in general is “Bad”…that’s at least what my grandma taught me)
- Don’t steal (or else)
- Don’t lie(or else)
- Be content with what you have
So here’s another quiz for you today: as you look at the list, how well are you following each of the 10 Commandments, and are you following all 10 of them? On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, how successful are you at being a good person?
I want to talk about law today…..how we think about the Law. For most of us, the Law is just that, a way to better living, to be a better you, to be a good person and perhaps improve our standing before our neighbors and before God. And if you listen to all the law-talk in our nation, you’ll hear the same line of thinking: We’re in the midst of presidential primaries and each candidate has “the answer” the right policies and laws that will fix what’s broken in our country and make it a better place – morally and socially. 3 more shootings at colleges this week has opened up the debate on gun control laws….where everyone has the solution to the problem. Stricter laws, disarm everyone….or laws that make it easier for the responsible to carry.
My point isn’t to spark a political debate this morning, and it’s certainly not to impose my beliefs on you. The point is, our law-talk, the ways we think about how the Law works, it’s prescriptive. It’s like a cure-all medicine that’ll cure the illness that plagues our society. But here’s the thing: like all prescription drugs, this Law comes with side effects: we see life as black and white; right and wrong. And such law-talk, such a life leads to one place – division. Walls get put up, name-calling starts, and we separate into our respective camps. And prescriptive law-talk takes things like the 10 commandments from what God intended them to be for God’s people, and turns them into a 10-step self-improvement plan for becoming a better you, a good person. And often it also leads us to judge those who aren’t on the same plan.
Law, as God intended it, is descriptive….it describes the relationship that God desires to have with God’s people. Life – a relationship – with the God of promise looks like this. And the same is true for us today. God’s Law doesn’t provide answers and it doesn’t solve our problems. It just offers a way of living……God’s law is an invitation to a relationship that shapes our lives, and perhaps in life-giving ways that we ourselves can’t make happen on our own.
If we think about the 10 Commandments this way – God’s Law of Love – it might look something like this:
- What does it mean to place God at the Center?
- Who/What do I serve?
- What you say about God and do in the name of God matters, because it says something about who God is.
- Rest of our body and spirit is important.
- Honor those who care for you.
- Life is a gift – both yours and your neighbor’s.
- People existing for your “Personal gratification” is not a relationship.
- Possession/consumption is NOT the goal of life.
- Mistrust kills community/relationships.
- Obsession leads to idolatry…..and an isolated life.
I think of these 10 Commandments as “God’s Law of Love.” These Laws invite us into a way of living in relationship with God and each other…a way based in love. Here’s some food for thought: God gives us the 10 Commandments as a gift – “so that you might live, that it might go well with you.” (Deut. 5:33) It’s this Law of Love that describes just how much God values our lives and the lives of those around us.
And perhaps it’s that gift that compels us to “love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might” and to “love our neighbor” as we know God loves us. And as you think about this gift, you might even want to make your own personal list this week of how you see this 10 Commandments describing your relationship with God, and with those around you. Go ‘head, try it!
Also this: I don’t know about you, but maybe you’re like me and are becoming more and more frustrated with all the prescriptive law-talk that’s been going around, and you like I wonder: what kind of world we’re leaving to our children and grandchildren……maybe God’s Law of Love is not only for us a way of life worth living, but also a gift worth passing on to our children. Amen.