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A code for living in freedom

The Ten Commandments are so familiar. We learned them when we were small and memorized them.

One, you shall have no other God before me; two, you shall have no graven image, no idols; three, you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; four, remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy; five, honor your father and your mother; six, you shall not murder; seven, you shall not steal; eight, you shall not commit adultery; nine, you shall not bear false witness; and finally 10, you shall not covet your neighbor’s things.

They sure seem designed to be easy to remember — Ten Commandments, ten fingers.  Which one is the most important? Jesus was asked that question in Mark 12: 28-34, and his answer was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

This answer sure distills the Ten Commandments, doesn’t it? If you love the Lord your God you won’t have any other God before him, you won’t have any idols, you won’t take His name in vain, you will obey His request that you rest and you will honor the family structure that He created.

If you love your neighbor as yourself, you won’t murder your neighbor, you won’t steal from your neighbor, you won’t commit adultery with his or her spouse, you won’t bear false witness against that neighbor and you won’t covet the things that belong to your neighbor.

One of the problems we have with the commandments is that we treat them as a burden, as obligations and encumbrances on our personal behavior. But notice it is not “these are your commandments you shall obey them or else.”

It starts, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, you shall have no other gods before me.” Notice that if you observe this commandment you don’t really need the others.

If you have no other God than the Lord, you don’t need any graven images, you would treat God’s name with respect, you would treat God’s day as holy and you would respect God’s creation by first respecting your parents, and by refraining from murder, theft, adultery, lying and coveting. 

God is saying “I am the one who freed you and this is your code for living in that freedom.”

Rev. Dale Brown is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is dalembesq@aol.com.