Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Our work through the commandments continues on this week with a series of commandments that are directed at our work with our neighbors. By setting up some perimeters around how we treat one another, we can truly be free people. Freedom is not when the powerful people can take whatever they want. Freedom is when we respect the property and livelihoods of other people. We help them maintain and retain what they have. Then we aren’t preoccupied in survival mode. Freedom is not when the strong dominate the weak but when we look out for one another. Freedom is when everyone’s rights are respected and heard, especially the elderly, the poor, the marginalized. Freedom is commitment between two people. Freedom is neighbor-improvement.
This set of commandments is about turning our gaze toward our neighbor. This way we can live fully into relationship with one another. No longer are we protecting what we have but we are respecting what the other has. We are building community. In essence, we are told not to look for our best life now but our neighbor’s best life now.
If we look toward our neighbor through these commandments, then we can be assured our neighbor is looking out for us as well. It creates reciprocal relationship with one another. God knows this. God is a relational God. Instead of God telling us to just love neighbor, God knows us so well to give us guidelines. We sometimes miss the points as far as human beings go.
The commandments tell us important information. Family relationships are important. Our elders are our grounding. We need to honor and respect them. Don’t kill each other. Don’t steal. We all get to respect the other’s stuff. Don’t hurt your neighbor with your words. Don’t have sex with someone else’s spouse. These are important keys to loving your neighbor. If you break one of these rules, it hurts the whole community. This is not about gaining or losing points, this is about maintaining relationship with one another. The law isn’t about you it is about loving your neighbor after loving God. It isn’t about you. Let’s not make it about you.
God loves your neighbor so much that God gives you law. And God loves you so much that God gives your neighbor the law. It continues the covenant between us. This is good news. This is good news of freedom and it is good news for help when we need a neighbor. This is such good news that Jesus will take these exact same concepts to revise and teach later. We are told that it is so important to keep relationship with neighbor by Jesus that is the second most important commandment, to love neighbor as self. Jesus is directly dialoguing with Moses and God here.
Quotes of the Week “People can learn as much about the ways of God from business deals gone bad or sparrows falling to the ground as they can from reciting the books of the Bible in order. They can learn as much from a love affair or a wildflower as they can from knowing the Ten Commandments by heart.” ― Barbara Brown Taylor
“All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.” – John Calvin
“When God wants to speak and deal with us, he does not avail himself of an angel but of parents, or the pastor, or of our neighbor.” – Martin Luther
“Why couldn’t Jesus command us to obsess over everything, to try to control and manipulate people, to try not to breathe at all, or to pay attention, stomp away to brood when people annoy us, and then eat a big bag of Hershey’s Kisses in bed?” ― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
“The only thing I know about Moses is him coming down from the mountain with the commandments and saying ‘The good news is I got him down to 10. The bad news is adultery is still in.” ― Steve Kluger, Last Days of Summer
Exodus 20:12-16 (NRSV) Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Questions for the Week
Who are your neighbors?
Out of this list, which commandment is the most difficult for you? Why?
How will you respect your neighbor this week?