The 10 Commandments

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Today's Reading: Exodus 20:1-21; Deuteronomy 5:1-21 

When I was in HS, my view of the Law was pretty negative...like most people.  Because I attended a Christian school, one of my required classes was Bible, and one year we were required to read The Law of Perfect Freedom by Michael Horton.  I also remember my Bible teacher making a pretty big deal out of the fact that the title sounds like a massive contradiction.  I do not remember much in the way of what was discussed in the book, but I do remember that whole situation being the beginning of my shifting view on the Law.

I grew up with a weird mix of influences when it comes to using and applying the 10 Commandments.  The church I grew up in was fairly conservative, my home life definitely was not (we were probably the only Democratic household I knew), and my Bible teacher considered my solidly conservative church to be dangerously liberal, i.e. he was the most conservative out of them all.  I learned to love the Law, to delight in it (to use mildly "Biblical" vocabulary).  But I also learned to love it for what it was intended to be: something more than a legal, moralistic code.  I came to see the Law as an important part of God's grace and a necessary component of fully living into the life that Jesus has invited his disciples.

For that reason, while many grow tired of hearing and will even seek ways to outright avoid the 10 Commandments, I love them.  While the language is heavily dominated by "Thou shalt not..." I see in those words a God who is fully embracing and offering himself as the loving Father that he is; he is simply doing what good parents do - he is watching over, instructing, and showing his children the best way to live and how to get the most of their relationship with Him.

Every good, solid, and healthy relationship has standards, expectations, and boundaries.  Our relationship with God is no different.  God is love and grace, but not to the extent that we can do whatever we want and still expect the relationship to thrive.  Relationships are two-way streets.  God promises and gives us grace (more grace than we could possibly know what to do with), and in return, we respond by committed to live in a way that bring honor and glory to Him.  We do that by living within the Law.

Something else often overlooked when it comes to grace and Law...When God met with Israel at Sinai, he was officially codifying his relationship with Israel.  I tend to see the whole thing as something like a marriage ceremony.  In a wedding, bride and groom exchange vows making commitments to one another about what each will offer to the other and laying out the nature of this new relationship.  At Mount Sinai, a very similar thing happened.  God met with Israel, and said "This is how it's going to be.  I will be your God and will do great things through you.  You will be my people and conduct yourself in this way."  The marriage takes place in Exodus 20.  And then in Deuteronomy 5 when the Law is re-read, Israel is about to enter the Promised Land (the land promised to Abraham and his descendants), and we have something like a re-newing of the vows ceremony.

I find myself going back to the Law often.  I renew my commitment to it.  I confess and receive forgiveness when I break it.  I find myself worshiping God because despite my own repeated failure to obey, God has yet to break his promise to me...