Recently I taught on the 10 Commandments in Catechism Class. To prepare, I searched “10 Commandments” in Google News. Guess what came up? Nearly every article was describing a controversy about the placement of the 10 Commandments on government property, usually in front of a courthouse. Those conversations are about separation of church and state … or freedom of religious expression … or whatever other agenda underlies the “presenting problem.”
For the sake of theological reflection, I humbly submit the following thoughts. These thoughts are not an attempt to weigh in on the debate per se, but to explore themes of faith related to this particular issue.
- Some argue that public display of the 10 Commandments is an effort to force the Christian faith on people. But that’s not how faith works. Faith does not come from human willpower. It’s a gift of God. He doesn’t twist our arms or coerce us to believe in Him; neither can we force our faith on others. God gracious enters our lives and turns us toward Him in faith. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 ESV) In principle, Christianity cannot be forced as a belief; it either can be rejected or embraced as a gift of God.
- Having said that, removing the 10 Commandments from public view is an unfortunate loss. The 10 Commandments are a truly effective guide for how to live. If we were more intentional about following the commandments, imagine how much better our society would be – more loving, more civil, more respectful, safer. The commandments aren’t just prohibitions; they’re an invitation to a better, healthier, more fulfilling life. They’re God’s way of taking care of us and those around us.
- To be honest, I reject the 10 Commandments every day – not as a monument but as God’s holy Law. Every time I sin, I’m casting God’s Word aside. From that perspective, I’m just as guilty of disrespecting God’s commandments as anyone else.
- Even better than having the 10 Commandments posted would be a monument with John 3:16! The 10 Commandments are not the heart of the Christian faith. The Gospel is! The commandments’ ultimate function is to reveal our sin and drive us to our knees in repentance before a holy and loving God, who delights to forgive us through Christ.
- Even more effective than teaching God’s Law in the public square is teaching God’s Word in the home. Moses instructed Israelite parents to pass on the commandments to their families, saying, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV) What happens in the home over years makes a deeper impact that any monument every could.
- Even better than posting the 10 Commandments is living them out! Peter wrote to his friends, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12 ESV) Our Savior Himself said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 ESV)
What points am I missing? Feel free to enlighten me by posting a comment or e-mailing me at email@example.com.
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