Scratching the Surface
Basic Rules for Good Behavior
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to the Ten Commandments)
Anyone who says Christianity is complicated is spending too much time in books about the book than in the book itself.
A troubled pastor asked, “Is Christianity as complicated as we are making it? Did Jesus really have all of these theologies and denominations and bulletins and vestments and stained glass windows and ornaments and relics and…in mind?”
“I may be wrong,” I responded, “but I think Christianity is really, really, really quite simple. Love Jesus and know for sure that you’re going to heaven after your last breath. In the meantime, you love Jesus by loving like Jesus because you’re so grateful about going to heaven after you die. As far as I can see, that’s Christianity by the book.”
Let’s spell it out.
It’s so simple.
When Jesus was asked to sum up what it means to be Godly, He explained, “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.”
Simply, love God and/by be/being kind to one another.
He was summing up the Ten Commandments.
The first half of the big ten is all about loving God: “no other gods…no idols…no messing around with His name by taking it in vain…and not missing worship.”
The second half is all about loving others to prove loving God: “prize your parents…don’t murder…don’t mess around with someone who ain’t your spouse…don’t take what doesn’t belong to you…stop gossiping…and be satisfied with what you’ve got.”
Let’s take a closer look.
1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” If we get this one right, everything else falls into place. If honoring Him above all else is our highest goal, greatest ambition, and most fervent prayer, we are more inclined to follow the rest of His rules for good behavior.
2. “No idols.” That means no one or no thing is allowed to distract us from the attention, allegiance, and affection due God alone.
3. “Don’t take His name in vain.” That means not attaching His name to anyone or anything out of His character or antithetical to His book.
4. “Don’t miss worship. Remember the Sabbath.” People who know who God is (sovereign) and what He has done for them (salvation) worship Him with enthusiasm and without equivocation.
5. “Honor/prize your parents.” Remember what they have done for us and obey them as they obey God.
6. “Don’t murder.” God not you or me or anyone else is the source, starter, sovereign, and savior of life from before the womb to after the tomb.
7. “Don’t commit adultery.” That means not messing around with someone who ain’t your spouse because it is taking the attention, allegiance, and affection due them and giving it to someone else who doesn’t deserve it.
8. “Don’t steal.” If it doesn’t belong to us, it’s not ours to take.
9. “Don’t lie or gossip.” God likes the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
10. “Don’t covet or lust for something that God has not intended for you.” We must be satisfied with what we’ve got because that’s all we’re gonna get.
Again, the first half (1-4) is inextricably woven into the fabric of the second half (5-10): “Love God and/by be/being kind to one another.”
Being Godly is all about loving God and proving that love by loving others; or as Jesus explained, “As you do it to/for others, you do it to/for Me.”
I think of a few lyrics from Stephen Schwartz in Pippin: “I know the parables told in the Holy Book…I keep close on my shelf…God’s wisdom teaches me when I help others…I’m really helping myself…And if we all could spread a little sunshine…All could lend a helping hand…We’d all be a little closer…to the promised land.”
J. Edgar Hoover often said there’d be no need for the FBI if people lived by the Ten Commandments.
And as Jesus said, “Truth makes/keeps us free.”
The Ten Commandments are God’s way of keeping us out of trouble with Him and each other.
Let me put it another way.
These basic rules for good behavior are liberating not limiting; guiding us on the best way(s) to get along with Him and each other.
That’s why they are often referred to as the basic building blocks of civilization and the answer to our prayer, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
I guess that’s why they’re commandments not suggestions.
Blessings and Love!
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