One of the texts for Sunday was Exodus 20:1-17. It gave me a chance to think a little about this text from the perspective of relationship, with God and others.
We know about the story of the ten commandments. Or better, we know about what we call the ten commands, God telling what we are supposed to do. People have made a point to put carved versions of them on courthouse lawns. People have made a point to put printed versions on classroom walls. People have made a point of lamenting people not wanting to make a point of them.
Sometimes it feels, just a little, like we worship having these commandments posted.
Which, of course, is in violation of the first thing on the list.
“Do not have other gods before me.”
Who is the me?
It’s the God who brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. It’s the God who was more powerful, apparently, than any of the gods that the Egyptians worshiped. And in this moment, on this mountain, this God speaks in a way that Moses hears and that the people feel and fear. With clear words and direction.
“What do you want us to do to appease you? Sacrifice children?”
No, God says. Here’s what I want.
“Acknowledge that I’m God.
Don’t create objects that stand in for me, that are filled, you think, with power.
Don’t tell people that I’ve said things I haven’t said. [I know. Paraphrasing these may walk a line with that.]
Take time to rest.
Give honor to the ones who gave you life.
Don’t murder people.
Don’t sleep with people you aren’t completely committed to.
Don’t steal stuff.
Don’t lie in court about your neighbor.
Don’t desire your neighbor’s everything.”
Those are the core of the rules.
Said that way, they make sense, they foster community. Said that way, they foster trust and respect. Said that way, they are healthy for relationship. But often, they aren’t said that way.