Most of us know what the Ten Commandments are. We may not be able to list all of them. Most people could tell you what one or two of them are. But we know they are a list of God's Rules. We know they must be important. Some of us remember when they were posted in public places to remind people of their importance. We can read them in the Bible in a couple minutes. Do not steal. Do not lie. Don't commit adultery. Do not kill. If we think about them for longer than a few minutes our minds come up with questions and reservations. Is it always wrong to lie? What if a lie saves a life or a relationship? What about killing? In a war? Or in self defense? What is adultery and why is God against it? It seems pretty out of date.
Even though the actual Ten Commandments take up only a few verses in the whole Bible, their ethos is fundamental to understanding what it means to be God's People in the world today. They need interpretation because history changes and the challenges we face today as God's People are not the same ones that Israel faced. But, it's amazing how often the Ten Commandments keep turning up in the Bible. The many nuances of the Ten Commandments are explored in the Books of the Law, and in the prophets and in the New Testament, as well. Jesus spoke about them in the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul references them, too. It is assumed that God's People know them. They are part of our theological foundation. We are meant to build our lives on their foundation. They are a short list on purpose so they can be memorized and passed on to our children. But, to memorize them is only the beginning - that is not all we do with them! As the Bible shows us, we continue to explore them and interpret them in the many changing situations of our lives. They are most certainly not a static list of rules; they are a living, breathing source of inspiration and guidance throughout our lives. They guide our relationship with God and with each other. The first half speaks about our relationship with God and then moves right into our relationship with others and how we treat others, and how we value life, and what kind of life God desires for us. It is a personal manifesto but also a community document. It was given at first, to describe what a community of God looks like. It is our identity as God's People.
We can read the Ten Commandments quickly but this Fall in church we will explore how each commandment is picked up over and over in the Bible and study their many nuances. We will see how they are used to describe and explain what is relevant in our lives right now and how they can be life giving in our community.
A good place to begin would be to memorize them.