How are you going following the rules during this lockdown time? I have heard a lot of discussion this week about how the current restrictions and rules need to be modified. And certainly, with compassion and special circumstances we might see possible exceptions to the rule. The Ten Commandments were understood as rules for living; guiding principles that imaged the covenant relationship where God and humanity were honoured. The rules build upon the notions in the Genesis creation narratives that God’s intentions were for flourishing of life and being good stewards of all God had given.
When considering the Ten Commandments as a list of rules they might be perceived as a list of ‘do not do this’ they also include commandments that say ‘do this’ such as ‘Remember the sabbath to keep it holy’ and ‘Honour your father and mother.’ Over the centuries there has been controversy about how the commandments have been interpreted. For instance, as our Seasons resources remind us ‘there has been contention over the penalties for degrees of killing (war, murder, manslaughter); advertisers depend upon people’s desire for what others have; trust and honour seem to be given to a multitude of ‘gods’.
Yet as Protestant theologian Martin Luther (1483–1546) taught every negative in this list implies a positive. For example, ‘do not kill’ implies ‘support the living’. So, the Ten Commandments can also be understood as offering a God-vision of the world. In this world and in connection with ‘the kingdom of God’ that Jesus preached we might seek a world where people are treated with respect, where greed and rivalry are replaced with collaboration and sharing of resources. Where people remember they belong to God and treat others as also part of God’s beloved family. Where right worship and right action go together and abuses of power and not keeping children and all who are vulnerable safe, are no longer issues that plague the good care of church and society.
If we might begin to see the commandments in this visionary way, we might add in our Australian context a desire for First and Second peoples to walk together seeking justice, where Indigenous health and education, less deaths in custody were put higher up the list of things we could do to honour and respect one another.
The Seasons resources suggest that ‘the original form and Hebrew language in Exodus 20 suggest that the commandments first may have been simply a list of ten words, sort of a summary of rules for living. Perhaps you could create a list of ten words that are life-giving for you – that summarise your own personal rule of life. Then consider What do you notice about these words? What might be missing from your list? Consider whether a similar list for your community could be much the same or different. Then, I think like Paul in the Philippians reading we might see how our privileged position might cause us to consider what are the challenges of the Way of Christ.
For Christ reached out to lepers, outcasts and widows and children and suffered ridicule for the way he cared for these little ones saying to such as these, belong the Kingdom of God. Perhaps if we, like the religious community, the Benedictines, adopted ‘a rule of life’ which showed hospitality to others (even strangers) or kept a regular spiritual practice we might find it helpful as a pattern to remind us we are part of God’s community that seeks to live as if we are related and all worthy of love and acceptance.