Monday, March 16, 2009

Delivered for Life Together

The Ten Commandments.

At first glance, they appear to be a simple list of "Thou shalt's" and "Thou shalt not's". Do this. Don't do this. Honor your father and mother and God's name. Keep the Sabbath. Don't have other gods or idols. Don't murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet. Simple, right?

Well, like most things in the Christian life, yes and no. The commandments are pretty simple and straightforward. We at least get a basic idea of what is required of us but like most things in scripture we have to figure out how the details work out in real life. For example, do only small man made statues count as idols or shall we include everything that distracts us from God in that category? Of course, we know we should value life too much to commit murder but what does that mean when it comes to abortion, capital punishment, war, and poverty? When it comes to keeping the Sabbath, should we follow the examples of the Pharisees? And what does it actually mean to honor your father and mother?

The intersection between sacred scripture and real life is one of complexity and ambiguity.

Despite the difficult tasks we face in sorting out these ethical dilemmas, there does seem to be one overarching theme that is clear in Exodus 20:1-17; God has delivered Israel for the specific purpose of living a certain kind of life together. Before a single command is given, God makes a statement about himself and his relationship to Israel. "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." The God who delivers is the same God who gives these commandments. God didn't just deliver Israel so that they might be free to do as they please and thereby end up enslaved to their own desires. God delivered Israel so that they might be a holy people. He delivered them so that they might be different from the other nations; a reflection of God in their life together as a people.

So while there is and should be serious and meaningful debate about what it means to be holy, there can be no question that we are, in fact, called to be holy. We are called to be a different kind of people. This is precisely the reason God has delivered us from our sin in the first place. Not simply for our own sake but so that we might be a truer reflection of him in our life together.

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