Good morning from Liverpool First. Our reading for this Wednesday, August 2, 2017 is Exodus 20.
The first four commandments God gave to Moses concerned our relationship with God. Notice God comes first. The first commandment was to have no other gods before God. This does not mean we cannot have other interests and pleasures as they are the gift of God to us, but they have their place in life and none should supersede God in our life’s priorities. After all, it is God who informs how we treat others and respond to the circumstances in living.
Second, don’t make any idols. Idols are tangible expression of what we prioritize over God. Third, we are treat God with respect in what we say and do because this is our witness to God and God’s truth. Good and reasonable stuff.
The next is regard to identifying and keeping a Sabbath. This copies God who sets the pattern of health and blessing. Jesus reminded us that the Sabbath was not to be a burden but a blessing. We need both down time, time for relationship building, worship and service.
The remaining six commands define how we are to respond to others. Prioritizing God in our living informs and guides us with how to form and maintain healthy relationships which in turn provide us with blessing. The first of these concerns our relationship with our parents. God says we are to honor them. Everyone has parents. This relationship shapes our personalities and depending on how we respond to our family of origin will set the course of our future.
Now some people do not or did not have good parents or even absentee or abusive upbringings. The command to honor parents is in itself an abusive to those injured by them. Generally, every child has complaints regarding their family of origin and of parents. We know we are not perfect and infected by sin which will be reflected in our parenting. The Bible states clearly “the sins of the fathers (and mothers) falls upon the children to the third and fourth generation.” Likewise, children of unfortunate upbringing must accept they in turn will bring blessing and curse upon their children. This humility will serve well in honoring the best our parents have provided us and guide us to be better parents ourselves.
How then shall we honor or parents? To those who have struggled with their backgrounds and upbringing I have counseled the best way to honor one’s parents is to do the best and be the best they can. Parents are honored when they see their children achieve beyond what they even could in their lives. We must practice forgiveness and accentuate the positive we find in others. The promise is in doing so we will extend life in the land. One aspect to the devolution of our culture is the loss of close familiar ties. Family is the foundation for any culture. Unless we address this trend the future outlook for a productive and healthy society is in jeopardy.
I skip one commandment to address the God’s condemnation of adultery. As family is the foundation of the health of a culture so then is the primary relationship which forms the family of essential concerns. Vows are made to God in parenting which are preceded by vows we make in relationships from which children are born and raised. While divorce is sometimes necessary it is also essential that vows are kept to assure a deepened intimacy and stability that is best to provide what children need. While children can survive divorce the failure of moms and dads provides another obstacle among many in life to overcome.
There is nothing more destructive to a marriage than adultery expressed in many forms (pornography, sexual fantasy, sexual practice, etc.). In a healthy marriage two persons become one by sharing their deepest most parts of their personalities. They share their hopes, dreams, secrets and flaws. Sexual adultery is not a physical act but is an emotional rape, tearing at the fiber of a partners sense of worth. I have seen marriages heal after such offence, but it is rare and requires a great deal of work to restore trust and heal the damages to those victimized by it.
To this restriction I would add that adultery also pertains to sexuality before marriage. The preventative to failed marriages is caution in forming such relationships. We should not just follow our heart but also use our head in selecting our partner for life. In spite of preventative measure, children remain born outside of marriage and deserve the stability of a mother and father who are together. Cohabitation may be chosen for many wrong reasons, but when children and other factors are involved those living together are considered married in God’s eyes.
The next seems so obvious, “do not murder.” We can play around with what is implied the word “murder” to consider how it applies to abortion rights, military service, euthanasia, yet the word is simple and strait forward to give us pause to consider the weightier moral issues of our day. The answers are not as simple as the warning implies. The securing of the right to life and self-determination is not only the stipulation of the Bill of Rights, but is the moral foundation laid out for us in God’s Word.
Similarly, the command to not steal is one that requires interpretation depending on the circumstance and theft is not limited to property. We can rob someone of their dignity and opportunity to embrace a fuller life God intends. The foundation of most cultures both ancient and present includes laws regarding protection of life and property. It has been called a social contract of mutual interest. God mandates obedience as a moral necessity. While all things belong to God who made them the opportunity to acquire and possess property is a gift from God to whom we are accountable for its use.
I do not always understand the order of the commandments for I would place the restriction against giving false testimony next to the command against theft. The command applies to giving civil testimony but I believe extends to lying itself. To lie is to steal the truth from others and to actively cause unnecessary harm. It also injures the one who lies for even before the truth might come out there is an inner awareness and damage to one who lies. If a lie is told long enough the person telling it may even come to believe their own lie, distorting life and leading to deeper loss of our true selves.
The final commandment is not to covet. A covetous attitude and heart is never satisfied with who they are or what they have. It becomes the foundation for murder, theft, lies, and adultery. When we see the grass is always greener somewhere else we despair of ourselves and neglect the opportunities and potential blessing God holds out to us. It places our self-concern over the welfare of others in ever increasing temptation to live for pleasing self. Strangely enough those possessed with such greed are not happy should they achieve their goal. Happiness is found in a healthy relationship with God from whom we gain our sense of worth and by whose values we are led to true abundance in life.
The Ten Commandments were given for our benefit; we would do well to review them often and be committed to fulfilling their intent.
Blessings! Pastor Brian Homan, Liverpool First UM Church