>One of the things about the 10 Commandments is how they demand a response. It is very difficult to stand before them and not feel something. For some they are clearly a paternalistic, negative, vengeful and bullying God who likes to boss puny mortals around. These people, be they Christians or not, are really one step away (if that much) from paganism. Hellenic mythology, like all other mythologies is full of anthropomorphic gods who clearly enjoyed manipulating mere mortals. They were petty, jealous and vindictive. For these people the 10 Commandments are some sort of punishment exacted by Tantalus – making us some sort of Sisyphus.
Another type of folk can see a little more into them. They may take comfort in Jesus’s summary of the Law and Prophets (love God, love you neighbor) and they look with gratefulness at Jesus for removing the burden of the Law from them. There is plenty in Paul’s epistles to justify this sort of thinking. And i would say the great majority of sincere Christians are falling in this camp.
I would like to suggest a further way of reading them – I have emphasized this before, but it is beneficial for myself to repeat it. The 10 Commandments must be read and interpreted through the lens of Love – capital L.
But let us differentiate this approach from the second approach outlined above. This is not a way of substituting what is hard and harsh in the Law with a (supposedly) easier and vaguer one.
My thrust here, as with all things, is to approach it from an experiential angle. how do I live out the Commandments? How do I live out the Gospel? Someone told me to look at the Commandments as a mirror: if you are a saint you will live out the Commandments from inside out, as it were – your heart will harbor no greed, no thoughts of anger, you will honor not only biological father and mother, but you will take Jesus’ word and honor all who strive to live out the Gospel as your fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. And so on.
A nice way to begin working the Commandments into your daily life is to change the wording a little. The original reads (Ex. 20:1-17):
1 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
And then change the commandments starting in verse 3 into:
1. It is my joy to have no gods but God.
2. It is my joy to worship God by beholding Him directly.
3. It is my joy to honor the sanctity of speech, through which God created all.
4. It is my joy after 6 days of toil to rest in the arms of Yahweh.
5. It is my joy and privilege to honor my fathers and mothers.
6. It is my joy to respect the sanctity of all life.
7. It is my joy to help my neighbors uphold their vows.
8. It is my joy to help my neighbors protect what they consider valuable.
9. It is my joy to let my ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ mean ‘no’.
10. It is my joy to need nothing beyond what God has generously provided me.
So – a monastic lifestyle is a joyous one, and it is concerned with searching out the joy (and peace and love, of course) in all things and people and situations.
And you thought the 10 Comandments were hard! Hah! Try rolling this one up the hills of your daily life:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)