Thou Shalt Not!
Many Judeo-Christian faith traditions approach the Ten Commandments as an immutable series of threats that come across thousands of years from an angry God. They are as cold and hard as a granite monument outside of an Alabama courthouse. For some, the Commandments represent a harsh and unyeilding individual ethical standard that inspires fear. Other people experience the Commandments with feelings akin to terror. When we appoach the Ten Commandments as individual demands for compliance we end up further alienated from God. What’s more, because of our penchant for competition, we separate ourself from our neighbor. What if we had another way to look at it? Can we find a way to hear the Ten Commandments that inspires instead of terrifies? Is there a way to see these ancient words that draws us into community.
A New Way
God has a vision for humanity. The vision is not defined by holding us to a standard of behavior with the threat of punishment. In the Ten Commandments God is expressing a vision that shapes a new community. Out of a slave population, God is molding a people who are called to relationship, to God and to each other. Israel’s life will be defined by relationships of dignity, mutuality, trust and respect. God’s grace and fidelity to God’s promises was the axis on which this vision turned. The people of Israel, empowered by the God who called them into relationship, were given an opportunity to start something brand new for themselves.
A Community with a Purpose
God invested this new community with a purpose. They were to be a people who, through their relationships, would bear the image of God’s great love for the world. The Israelites would be a people to show the world the way to know and relate to God. Through the establishing work of God the Israelites received a new vocation. Through our call in Christ we are woven into that community, into that purpose. We are claimed by the Ten Commandments and liberated by the resurrection of Christ to live a new life, together. As followers of Christ, we can build a community together and, with faith, extend it outward.