3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
A Word of Hope
The scripture passage that is appointed for today is The Decalogue or Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20: 3-17, the list of “thou shalt nots…” that define the character and behavior of a Godly person. I trust that I am not the only one who responds much for favorably to positive rules, to things I should do, rather than to those that I shouldn’t or can’t do. The Ten Commandments have always felt more like nagging to me. For this reason, I have chosen to focus on what, in my opinion, feels like the Cliff Notes version of the Ten Commandments, Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-39.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If I am doing as Jesus instructs and am loving the Lord my God with ALL my soul and ALL my mind then I think I have the first three commandments are covered. There will be no room in my heart or my mind for any other Gods or false idols. And when acting out of love, there is no means by which to misuse God’s name, or anyone else’s for that matter.
Stealing, committing adultery, coveting my neighbor’s things, false testimony against my neighbor, and murder can be bundled in Jesus’ command to love my neighbor as myself. Five more of the Ten Commandments addressed.
The other two commandments, Remember the Sabbath Day and honor your father and mother have always puzzled me a bit because they don’t follow the “thou shalt not” format of the other eight. In thinking about this, I wonder if the clarification that I am looking for rests in the placement of these two commandments within the list of ten. In Jesus’ words above, his first commandment to love your God with all your heart…summarizes the first three commandments as presented in the book of Exodus; his second commandment, love your neighbor…, encompasses the final five commandments. The two commandments whose form confuses me are numbers four and five, sitting right between the two groups that I find to be more easily understood. Are keeping the Sabbath as a holy day of rest and honoring our mothers and fathers the means by which we move from loving God to loving our neighbors? Are they the path that leads us to experience agape? Maybe? The possibility seems worthy of some thought and prayer.
What I do know is that many of those claiming to be Christians continually spew forth toxic theology rooted in division, injustice, ugliness, and hatred. They seem to have lost their way, not travelled the entire path which leads from loving their God to also loving their neighbor. If we are going to call ourselves followers of Christ, we do not have the luxury of choosing which words of Jesus we are going to follow and which ones we are not. Jesus is clear as to which commandments he sees as most important:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving God, show me the path that leads me to loving you with me whole heart and mind, reveals within me a healthy love of myself, and equips me to extend that love to every one of my neighbors. Amen.
Order of st Francis and St. Clare