It’s no secret that I like to re-engage Bible stories in ways that might make them speak more meaningfully to our lives today. I think we need to constantly be doing that, sometimes over and over and even over again. How else will we find what’s true in the story, the heart that still beats there, the life that still speaks - there’s any of a thousand metaphors we could use, and there will always be more, because we grow. Our context changes. This is a new time. Every day is a new day.
Among the stories I revisit regularly is what I’m going to call Ten Great Ideas for Living Together. I know that sounds like one of those things that shows up in your Facebook feed or on YouTube - that’s kinda the point - maybe from BuzzFeed or WatchMojo, they get your attention. These days, odds are that you’re more likely to keep reading if it says “Ten Great Ideas for Living Together” rather than “The Ten Commandments.”
Calling them “commandments” isn’t even original - we started using that term in the 16th century - and it reflected, I think, a particular perspective that we should let go. They’re not commands or laws, definitely not as we would understand those terms today. They’re a way to build and facilitate relationships. That’s the point of them being a covenant. Together with God and each other, we covenant to create community with these ways of living. We begin with the love that we are and we share that love with these sayings as a starting framework.
Remember, too, the context of the people who first heard them. Because the Ten Great Ideas for Living Together is part of their story, the story of the Hebrew people in Exodus, newly freed from Egypt, feeling alone, confused and wandering in the desert. They knew law and order, what they didn’t know was relationship.
These ten sayings are an attempt to say something much more fundamental about how we live, with God, with ourselves and with each other, something that needs to be taught new to every generation in a way that generation understands. They’re about how we should live because we should live. We should live with freedom, not fear. With love, not hate. With peace, not conflict. With joy, not hurt.
One way we could get started is to frame them as affirmations of that love that is in us. There’s a lot of “thou shalt not” in what’s been handed down to us. Perhaps “thou shall” is a better way to go. How about this.
There is one great life-giving energy that is God. We know God in different ways, by different names, but we’re all one with God.
Only devote yourself to God. Stuff is just stuff, people are just people, God is love.
God respects you. Respect God.
Have a day of rest to reconnect with God.
Love and honour your parents. They gave you life.
Honour all life and keep it safe.
Build relationships and honour them.
respect what belongs to others.
Be honest and true.
Be happy with what you have, share with others, and love.