I have spent the last few days answering comments from people on a couple of my blog pages, as well as the usual work I do, so had no time to blog. I was considering many questions in the process, and was given a very good one (actually two, but the other will have to wait) by a lady in one of the comments. I ended up writing over 1500 words, as a comment, and realised that it fits well as a blog, with a bit of restructuring and explaining .. so here goes.
Let’s define the Law as the Ten Commandments, for those are the ones that I think apply to Christianity.
A few days ago I watched a program on Moses and the Ten Commandments by a very intense Catholic lady, who, when someone did not agree with what she was saying, or say what she wanted, would talk straight over the top of them, and demand they answer in a way to suit her needs. Well, the program never said it was unbiased, but, going by the reaction of my family who are not madly Christian, it would have once again confirmed that staying away from Christianity and their judgmental beliefs and attitudes is a good idea. I don’t agree with that, but I do think the lady was a living example of why people run away from the church .. and in doing so run away from God, and that, to me, is heartbreaking.
And then Heather from Move From This Mountain asked me if I believed that “Jesus loved in accordance to the Law”, and at first I thought ‘Yes, he did’, but when I took it apart, I had questions. This is my reasoning –
I do not believe that all Ten Commandments provide a set of boundaries for moral behaviour, given that the first four are all about who God is and what He wants as suitable worship. But I do think it’s good to have those guidelines as honouring God is very important to me. The rest of the commandments do give us structure, but I have reservations …
1) I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other God’s before me.
I am grateful to God for my whole life, but I not aware of any ancestors from Egypt, nor Jewish ones, thought we can only follow our family lines back to Charles 2nd in England most clearly, though you never know. Does that part apply to me? It might? Do I put any other God before Him .. well, I was taught there was only one God .. so where do I find any others? Or were the preachers lying when they said there was only one God? Yes, Moses followers did make a golden calf and worship it, or whatever God it represented, but if it didn’t represent a real ‘god’ then why were we told not to put any other god’s before Jehovah?
2) You shall not make yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven, above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
There’s a heck of a lot of stuff to answer in this one:
Do I believe in a jealous God, who will punish the children for the sins of the parents .. no. What did the children do to deserve that, or is that a threat to frighten anyone considering having children? But didn’t God say ‘go forth and multiply’, or words to that effect? So by not having children, because you fear what God will do to them when you sin, aren’t you sinning already, by not doing what God wants? I will honour and worship Jesus’ God, but I have no time for a God that fears that I will not follow It so much that It has to be jealous of a graven image? If you take the words of the Bible literally, I think paintings are out .. so God and Adam touching fingers (The Creation of Adam) means that Michelangelo has gone to hell, though he’s probably there already, given that he was not interested in women.
In my experience, God is not that small, that frightened, that fragile an ego, that It has to demand our undivided attention – otherwise we would all be monks and nuns .. and why doesn’t He/it appear to be doing so now? Where’s the smiting? Why did it stop? And why are there all those statues of Jesus, Mary and various saints in many churches of many faiths? Why aren’t the buildings burnt to the ground? Perhaps God understands that some people need a statue of Jesus up there in front of them, to help them focus their thoughts as they talk TO Him, not the statue. I agree a cow might not be a good symbol, but .. then I have wonder, if Jesus had been a cattleman, would cows have been ok? Did Moses ask God specifically to ban idols when he went to get the second set of tablets, just to put a stop to the cow worship? We will never know, and I have always wondered what the difference might have been between the first set of tablets that Moses brought down to the people, after being in God’s presence all that time, and the second set when he went back up the mountain in a flaming temper!
And the last question .. if God has steadfast love to the thousandth generation of one of his followers, what happens if the 627th generation decide to go with Buddha instead? Will he break his promise to the 1st generation to damn the children of this one for their parents change of belief?
3) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Do I take the Lord’s name in vain .. I might sound like I do, usually when I am groaning about someone’s puzzling behaviour .. I even look to the sky when I said ‘oh God!’ .. it means ‘help me to understand, to be kinder, and more loving, because I need your help’. Does this mean I am damned or not? And what happens if we say it by mistake .. which anyone is capable of doing .. oh yes, we can go to confession and be forgiven by a living man, hopefully God is not mad at him and accepts our repentance – at least if we are Catholic.
4) Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.
I love having the 7th day off, but I do not follow the Jewish custom of doing nothing on those days .. but that doesn’t mean I am not talking to God in my heart and my mind while I am tilling the garden to grow food .. or attempting to .. this amount of rain is killing my plants. The ground is just too wet where the vegetable gardens are. I respect the strength of the Jewish people who honour God this way but can only imagine the struggle it must be ‘not’ to do things I would not ordinary consider as work. And then there is the thought of which day is the 7th day? What day of the week did God start making the earth on? That comes from a midnight conversation with my partner about this question. Personally I can’t decide whether Saturday (a couple of religions), Sunday (Christianity) or Monday (the beginning of the business week) is suitable.
5) Honour your mother and father, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Honour thy mother and father – that’s a tough one .. I believe honour and respect are earned, and should not just be handed out to anyone. I taught my children to respect their elders, as I was taught, but once they were old enough to see that the elders can often be nastier than children, how could I ‘make’ them continue to do so? I show respect to all people, even after they prove themselves unworthy of it, but I find it hard to respect someone such as a paedophile, and would not expect my family to honour them even if they ‘were’ a close relative.
6) You shall not murder.
Do not murder .. I’ll get back to that one. I’m going to end up turning that into a blog. Your question about the death penalty led to some interesting musings while I was cleaning my home this morning. Short answer is – I agree for the most part, but my question is ‘when is murder not murder’?
7) You shall not commit adultery.
I agree it shows no respect for any of the parties, including one’s self.
8.) You shall not steal.
Do not steal – I agree, and in a perfect world that would be logical in a society where everyone had enough of everything to live comfortably, but society isn’t like that. If you respect yourself, you can respect others and allow them to have what they have, without envying them so much that you have to ‘take’ what they have. But then, some people have nothing, and would die if they didn’t steal to eat .. does God see such extreme cases and understand, or are the laws arbitrarily applied? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and they do what they must to survive, because we don’t hear about God helping them by putting money in their hands – otherwise it seems the rich are getting more help than the poor, and yet the poor will inherit the earth – so who is helping the rich, and why?
9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
Do not bear false witness – do not lie. I agree with that one. Morally it is simply wrong. You have to be very clever to be able to lie well, and maintain the facade it creates around you. Far simpler to tell the truth, also far more hurtful at times, and what do we do in circumstances where lying would save someone’s life? Do we honour our moralistic stand, or do we keep someone safe?
10) You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; wife; male or female slave; ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. (my paraphrasing)
Do not covet your neighbour’s ‘anything’. Do not look upon what s/he has with envy in your heart, because it is a poison that can twist you up in knots, and our society is a nightmare for this with the ‘be like the Jones’ attitude, which is simply greed. I prefer my simple life. But I have a lot, when I stop and look around me – my family and friends, my safe place I live in, good food, clean water, beautiful surroundings (we live in an orchard), and bookcases covered in books, and other modern trappings, like the computers. I am very much blessed and thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on all of us, even when we are struggling, or think we are. But we have no idea of true suffering, for we do not live the way people in the third world live, and where is God there, at revival meetings knocking people down when His/its power touches them, or heals them, or filling their minds full of rapture, but not their stomaches. Can you starve to death on God’s Word, or are we supposed to eat the pages? Whoops, I just realised I have lost my temper for a minute (which is what happened when I wrote this yesterday).
The ordinances then go on to discuss slavery .. something I do not agree with.
The other night in the TV program I mentioned at the beginning one of the speakers lost his temper and made some very angry comments on the Commandments oppressing society, not benefiting it. At the time I didn’t agree with him, but having sat here writing this out .. in truth he might be right. Oh yes, they are great to give lip service to, but in reality our world stomps on the poor, those who have to steal to eat. And the rich get richer, just look at the Catholic Church and their abundance. They could feed the poor a million times over, and do they .. with their great collections of gold, jewels and other ‘idols’? What frustrates me most is that people see the wealth of most churches, the greed of some of them, and blame God for it, not man. They turn away from God because of it.
I prefer Jesus’ commandments “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love others as yourself”.
Did Jesus love in accordance to the Law .. not in my opinion. He loved everyone, he talked about God with everyone, and I don’t remember him mentioning that El was a jealous God. Since jealousy and envy are sins, and Jehovah is jealous .. where does that leave us? And Jesus was not exclusive. He reached to everyone from the cross, if you believe what Athanasius wrote on the Atonement .. and I do. Maybe Paul is right, maybe Jesus did free people from the Law, since the Law came from Jehovah .. but I don’t think He freed us from moral behaviour. You cannot harm anyone if you think each thought through based in Love. And being me, I also think Jesus freed us from that jealous God. And God bless Him for that.
One last thought: Jesus said “until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished”. (Matt 5:18) We find it again in Matt 24:35, with whomever wrote Matthew telling us that no one but God knows when that would be. In my opinion, this means that Jesus’ death on the cross did not unbind us from the Laws of Moses, for the passing of heaven and earth are still being waited for in 2 Peter 3:10, and that was written long after Jesus had died. I think that is one of the many contradictions in the Bible. And as I have just said ‘where does that leave us now’?
And always more questions: ]
Do we need to be commanded to be righteous people? I guess we must, since so many people choose to follow a different path.
Can’t we follow our leaders and ask ourselves ‘what would Jesus do’ before each action, or unkind word? What does one do if they do not believe in Jesus, or dispute his nature, or whether he was a good man, a kind teacher, a false teacher, a prophet, God’s son, or a rebel?
What would our leaders do? And then I look at the various politicians in the world, many of who admit not to believing in God at all – and I wonder, as we are drawn into the darkness by the destruction of our faith, where it will all end? There was a reformation once, that split the churches into many pieces, perhaps we need another, to bring us all back together .. but I do not want a dictator for the whole world. Why can’t the ‘leader’ simply be Love?
Love & Peace