Love, morality and the 10 Commandments
Most of the time, when friends ask me about Christianity, their conception is that it’s a list of out-dated instructions that are impossible to follow.
Yes, the Bible certainly has a lot of do’s and don’ts.
As a kid, I used to read the 10 Commandments and add up all the laws I thought I'd broken, based on my limited understanding of what they each meant. Even at a young age, I remember realizing with a sinking feeling that I’d already broken at least half of them. Now, I've broken every single one of these laws — according to Christ's interpretation in the New Testament (Matthew 5:21-28).
That’s a terrible track record.
But the thing is, you can’t separate God’s love from his morality, or vice versa; doing so will only give us a skewed picture of who God is.
With God, love equals morality and morality equals love.
Out of love, Jesus died on the cross so that those who believe in him can escape hell and become adopted children of God. Simultaneously, Christ’s death was also an act of justice; he took the punishment, not only for the evil we've done, but also for the evil done to us.
The 10 Commandments are commonly seen as a way to point fingers or look down on others. Sadly, Christians are often seen as having a “holier than thou” attitude. I’ve also talked to many people who think that only certain people can achieve the level of “goodness” required to be a Christian. Most of them think they could never be those people.
But let’s rethink how we view the 10 Commandments for a second. Yes, they represent a fairly comprehensive summary of God’s moral code. However, we cannot follow these principles without God's help, nor will doing so be enough to make up for our wrongdoing. That is not because God isn’t fair. It’s because God never ordered things that way in the first place.
Doing "good" was never the way to atone for sin. Sacrifice always was.
So, morality has nothing to do with striving to be saved. Rather, it has everything to do with honouring God and living the kind of lives he designed for us. That is our love for him. His love for us is that his commands actually point the way to the healthiest and most fulfilling way of life.
Why? Because God, our Creator, literally built that intention into our DNA. Like I talked about in my last post, the Lord’s way is the best way for us, and when we go against that way, we bring suffering, depravity and judgement on ourselves (Romans 1:18-32).
Let’s try reading the 10 Commandments, not as condemning list, but as a description for how we are to love God truly and whole-heartedly, and love others as we love ourselves. Worded as a way of life, we get to see in these commandments a fuller picture of God's desire for our souls, minds and bodies.
*NOTE: This is my own paraphrased version. Read the actual 10 Commandments here.
Worship and live for God alone, the One you were created to live in communion with and to serve from the beginning.
Keep your attention and focus on serving the Creator. Don’t worship created things because they are less than the One who created them; you should not settle for serving anything beneath the Lord himself.
Honour God’s name as your Father and Saviour, referring to him with reverence, not flippancy or disrespect.
God gave you a day each week for where you can be refreshed and healed in companionship with him. He wants you to spend time with him. Treasure this gift and use it!
God gave you family as a gift; care for and respect your parents because they are meant to reflect the Father’s relationship with you.
Don’t hold hatred against others; each human life is to be deeply valued and protected.
Sexuality is a powerful, beautiful gift from God, which is meant to draw two people together on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It is to be enjoyed within the safety and protection of marriage; in that committed context, a man and woman can honour each other’s bodies fully as God designed.
God provides for you, so you don’t have to take what you need from others; work honestly and faithfully.
Each person has inherent value as God’s creation; you are to respect them and think the best of them, rather than spreading false rumours about them.
Be thankful for what God has given you, instead of envying what other people have, otherwise you will be robbed of the joy that comes with contentment.
Jesus says that love is embedded in the fabric of the law:
Jesus replied: “‘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.” Matthew 22:37-40
This means the law is good, and filled with love. God gives us morality because he loves us. Without morality there is no love, and without love there is no morality. We need a moral code so we understand how we are meant to love; we need justice for immorality, otherwise there would be no reason to live by any standard at all.
If the gospel you hear being preached doesn’t include both God’s love and his morality, then it isn’t the gospel.
If you want to dig deeper, here are a few other voices who’ve weighed in on this topic.