“God’s Law Ends with Respect for Neighbor”
As we begin to talk about the way human beings are to treat each other, there are two things to remember.
First, the Ten Commandments come from God, not from human culture. In Exodus 20:1 we read that it is God who speaks these words. In other words, the commandments are a revelatory event. These are God’s commandments for us. They do not arise out of a community of faith whose attitudes and beliefs change and evolve over time depending on the environment. These words from God are not dependent on what seems right to us.
The second thing we must remember is that from a Biblical perspective the way we treat ourselves and our neighbors is a result of how we relate to God. In the Ten Commandments this truth is modeled by having the commandments that deal with our relationship to God before the commandments that deal with our human relationships. Only after fully committing ourselves to the one and only God of all creation are we ready to hear what God says about living in community with others. In other words, Christian ethical behavior is a response to a commitment to Almighty God. They are God’s Word to the human community.
It is no accident that the first ethical commandment deals with the human family. From the beginning of Biblical history the family has been front and center. Marriage between a man and woman is clearly the first human institution lifted up by God. On this institution all the other ethical commandments rest.
Where are we to learn how to live together in peace? The human family.
Where are we to learn to deal with conflict in a respectable way? The human family.
Where are we to learn how to respect authority? The human family.
Where are we learn to speak the truth in love? The human family.
Where are we to learn not to be jealous of what someone else has? The human family.
From a Judeo/Christian perspective, the home is where Godly values are taught. People who learn these values at an early age prosper; people who live in dysfunctional homes or people who rebel against their parents have more and more difficulties as time goes on.
Without an experience of the holy (such as: an encounter with Christ or a Damascus Road experience), those who have not learned the basic Christian values of love and respect that are taught in a nurturing home are doomed to reap the carnage that self-centeredness breeds among us.
As Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:19-23
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before. Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
The point is that total commitment of our lives to Almighty God as well as the nurture that a God-centered family can provide pave the way for the next five commandments.
Vs.13 You shall not murder.
Vs. 14 You shall not commit adultery.
Vs. 15 You shall not steal.
Vs. 16 You shall not bear false witness.
Vs. 17 You shall not covet things that belong to your neighbor.
Without a deep commitment to the one God of all creation, the God who redeems as well as creates, these five commands make no sense. And from a Biblical perspective the place where we learn how to live in this way is the home, a home where father and mother learn to live together in peace. The result is a nurturing environment that fosters peace in the human community. Where this kind of nurturing home is absent, the possibilities for brokenness and discord abound.
The home is where love is learned and lived out even in the midst of human brokenness. This is what loving our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves is all about.
It’s not that our homes are perfect; it’s that in the midst of our human struggles we learn to turn our cheeks, to walk extra miles, to learn from our mistakes and to walk in the way of forgiving love. This is what commitment to Jesus is all about.
As Jesus said to his disciples: “The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength; and the second is like the first, love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. All the laws and commandments are based on these truths.”
The question now becomes whether we desire to walk in the footsteps of the Master? Or, do we prefer to do what seems right in our own eyes?
When we desire to walk as Godly men and women, there are two prerequisites:
- We put God first and even in our brokenness strive to please him.
- With all our human strength and energy we become supportive of Godly homes that teach and nurture the way of love we see in Jesus Christ
By committing ourselves to put God first and to build Godly homes we build up the human community and create nurturing environments that foster the idea that only through love and kindness can the human community live in peace. This is what the kingdom of God is all about. Let us seek this kingdom before we seek any human thing.
Thanks be to God!