Sunday, 8 October 2017

Commandments and authority

Do we have to obey the ten commandments (Ex. 20) or are they just moral guides to our living in the world?  What happens if our moral guides become so over interpreted and restrictive that we can no longer reflect God's love into the world?  Earlier this week I posted on the legalistic viewpoint that we have turned our faith communities into following as opposed to the rule of love that is expansive and welcoming of all.  In today's reading we follow Moses reception and delivery of the basic tenets of the third covenant, the 10 commandments, and so I pose the question above.

In trying to understand these laws both the Judaic and Christian faith have interpreted them in many different ways.  According to scripture at the time of Christ the interpretation was rather legalistic and Christ kept on poking at religious authorities with this in mind.  The writer to the Ephesians (whether Paul or Timothy or some other) has this same thing in mind.  Despite having been brought up in a culture where the Law mattered the author is still striving towards a perfection that is beyond the Law (Phil. 3).  If this is a true reflection of our own journeys in faith then we too should be striving to go beyond that which is laid down by law.  Only when we fully understand the ramifications of the law will we be able to surpass the law.  Yet, we strive only with the interpretation and simply to fulfill our interpretations by being legalistic around what, where and how we should respond.  The exact interpretation of the law is the requirement to our mind and yet we bend that to our will and our wishes rather than seeing beyond the legalistic response. Let us look at the commandment at Genesis 20.15 (Do not steal for those that did not know).  What is theft?  Does the Australian government steal when it unfairly distributes the GST revenue or is this acceptable?  By whose interpretation of theft do we go on?, How do we determine whose right? and we could go on.  In which case lets set up judges, but do they have it right? what about juries, etc, etc, etc.  The interpretation of the three words Do not steal. depends on point of view and who instituted how property was distributed, etc.  We become bogged in a quagmire of interpretation when we actually need to see the crux of the whole.

Do we steal when we eat well?

Christ circumvented the interpretive dilemma by giving us a complete "law" - Love your neighbour as yourself.  This "law" is a condensate of the final laws of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20.13-17) and forms how we need to relate to each other.  The golden rule so to speak. A rule we are unable to fulfill because we are so weighed down with our interpretive quagmire that we think we can not reach dry ground and must delve deeper and deeper into the marshy depths of our own wants and needs.  It really is simple when we think about it.  However, because of our own requirements for power, prestige, authority, admiration from others, etc we flounder in how we treat others.  We do not really care about what our neighbours want, we only care for our own benefits, our own fitness to rule. It is the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest that consumes us not the requirements of the other.  Indeed when our deficiencies are highlighted through the action of a prophet we become enraged and try to obstruct, obscure and otherwise discredit the one who is pointing our faults out.

Such behaviour is outlined in Christ's parable of the vineyard (Mtt, 21.33-46) a telling story against the religious authorities of the day that is as equally relevant for the Church today.  It is only when we actually begin to give away our limited power and authority do we begin to live as Christ wants us to. Protection of what we consider to be sacrosanct is not necessarily what God holds to be sacrosanct.  It is only God that matters not our human made rules and regulations.  God requires us to fulfill the commandment of love not our needs, because in fulfilling God's requirement the rest comes through God's grace.

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