We’re starting our summer with something seemingly so simple – the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments loom large in our cultural mind’s eye, from movies to monuments to legal history. And while I don’t want to minimize the Ten Commandments’ position within our theology and faith history, I do wonder if our culture has hyped up the Ten Commandments even more than our religious tradition does. Let me explain.
The Ten Commandments are ten of 613 laws given in the Hebrew Bible. The 613 laws are found within the Hebrew Bible alongside other God-given, inspired writings, including:
- the prophets’ teachings
- narratives of God’s interventions with God’s people
- poetry, song, lament and mysticism
Viewed together with the New Testament, the Ten Commandments are part of a larger collection of teachings, commandments, and stories that inform how we live – individually, and as people of faith together – and shape our wellspring of belief. And within this larger collection of sacred writings, the Ten Commandments are certainly a helpful shorthand for the call of faith.
The Ten Commandments – like the whole of Scripture – bear witness to the faithful’s loyalty both to God and to neighbor. The first three commandments call us to attend to our relationship with God, whereas the next seven call us to attend to our relationships with our neighbor. These two hold together – love God, love neighbor – as the rest of Scripture’s story tells us, too.
And so as we look at the Ten Commandments over these next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting this dynamic in the Ten Commandments, a dynamic that we find within our whole practice of faith – love God, love neighbor. A faith that goes deep in seeking the presence and promise of God, but which ignores the neighbor, is not the faith of the Bible. A faith that acts in love toward the neighbor but seeks no guidance, wisdom, or direction from God is not the faith of the Bible, either (but is preferable to the former). This four-week series will seek to hold and lift up the dual commitments of the life of faith, and show how the Ten Commandments contribute to our calling to “live God’s promise.”
I look forward to seeing you at New Joy for this series. Blessings.