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Showing posts from October, 2015

Ten Words #7: Marriage, Sex & God's Justice

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The 6th & 7th commands are perhaps the most well known: Don’t murder & don’t commit adultery. But does the fact that they are easily identified mean that they are easily lived out? Just as murder violates one’s neighbor and destroys the social fabric of the community, adultery is also a severe violation of the trust and wellbeing between neighbors. It has a chilling effect beyond the individual actors, damaging the loyalty and affection of the entire community. Loyalty and affection are the primary building blocks of each family, and families in turn are the primary building blocks of a society. Tearing the family through sexual infidelity, therefore, is an attack on the whole community.
For Israel, the commandment was clear, but the penalty for breaking it was applied unevenly or not at all. Some texts state that both parties were subject to the death penalty (e.g., Lev 20:10). But it’s not hard to find examples where this was ignored or applied harshly only to those without…

Ten Words #6: The Sanctity of Life

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The last five commands are short and relatively straightforward. All told, these rules undergird the social fabric of the believing community. While their hypothetical meaning may seem plain, their enactment in real life is much more complicated.
After Adam and Eve were cast out from the Garden, we find the story of Cain and Abel. The text does not adequately explain why Abel's gift was more pleasing to God than Cain's. People propose all kinds of possibilities: Abel brought his best while Cain gave something average; Abel's heart was in the right place while Cain's was not; and so forth. In truth, we don't know. The narrator only tells us that Cain's gift was not regarded by God. There's no clear rationale.
The reason is irrelevant. This tale is not primarily about how to offer a pleasing gift. It’s about what happens when anger and jealously well up within us as they did within Cain. His rage was so apparent that God actually confronted Cain, to no effe…

Ten Words #5: Honor Your Parents

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With the 5th word, we move from the first tablet of commands to the second. The first focuses on our vertical relationship with God. The second tablet deals with our horizontal relationships within the community.
This is the only commandment that contains a promise. Respecting one’s parents somehow leads to a sense of blessing in this life. But what exactly does this promise mean? And how do we respect our parents?
First, remember that these Ten Words weren’t delivered to Mrs. Murphy’s Sunday school class. Do you remember Mrs. Murphy’s Sunday school class? The name isn’t important, but you know the kind of teacher I’m talking about. She’s the one who taught you the books of the New Testament, made you quote the twenty-third psalm in old English, and told you to obey your parents. Without ever telling you it was the fifth commandment, she put the fear of God into you as she prompted you to mind your mom and dad.
I know what you’re thinking: “If only our world had more Mrs. Murphys tod…