Relationship not Rules …

Today’s Readings: Exodus 20:1-21 & Luke 14

Although my boys are well and truly grown men (one with 2 children of his own), if I close my eyes I can easily remember the years of parenting with my husband, from when they were babies, through the early years, adolescents, to young men leaving home; the conversations about what they could or couldn’t do; the responsibility we took for not just how we would live together but what it meant for us to live in relationship with each other, together as our ‘family’

The younger they were the more restricted the guidelines, but were these rules for rules sake? Certainly not. They were the expectations for what we considered to be how we would and could live in loving relationship … with all the challenges that life and parenting brought.

What we read today in the list of 10 Commandments, can, if we are not careful, simply be read as a list of rules to be obeyed. But this was not God’s intention, in the same way our intention as parents was never to simply provide a list of rules for our boys to obey to know they were loved.

This was about God setting down stipulations or requirements for what it meant for the Israelites, his chosen people … those set apart … to be in relationship with him, and as a direct result of this, how they were to relate to each other.

God had just delivered his people from Egypt and his expectation was that his people were to be steadfast and committed in their devotion to him. This is at the very heart of the covenant relationship.

You shall have no other God’s before me …. vs 3

You shall make no idols nor shall you bow down to them or worship them … vs 4

The rest of the commandments go on to set down the outworking of this love in how God expected his people to not only engage with one another – the orderly framework for society to function – but this was also about engaging the heart and mind. This was not just about outward obedience as coveting, the final commandment certainly demands a heart check response that could be difficult to ‘prove’ unless one act on the coveting.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the Pharisees try to test Jesus by asking the question:

‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied: ‘Love the lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’  Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus reply to the Pharisees is a wonderful summary of how love of God must be first, but how it can never be isolated from our love of others.  If we truly love God, this will automatically be seen in the outworking of how we live life and engage with one another.  Not that any of this is easy, for Jesus in Luke’s Gospel spells this out in very clear terms.

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27

But we know we do this through the strength of the one who obediently went to the cross to bring us back into a relationship with God.  The words written in Hebrews are not just a great encouragement of faith, but make a great prayer. I encourage you to join with me, and make this your own personal prayer.

Therefore brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with sincere hearts in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscious and have our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and food deeds. Hebrews 10.19-23