Several years ago there was a controversy that popped up regarding the placement of a monument to the Ten Commandments at a court house in another state. Arguments erupted over issues of separation of church and state and whether or not this explicitly religious symbol had any place in a public space paid for by public monies. As happens whenever this sort of issue arises, emotions ran high as people on all sides appealed to deeply held beliefs regarding both religion and politics – always a volatile mix.
One night at a midweek gathering in the church I pastored at the time, I asked a group of Bible study participants how many of them had a strong opinion that the Ten Commandments should be placed at the court house in question. The majority of the hands in the room were raised. Then I went to the dry erase board at the front of the room and asked the group to name the Ten Commandments in order while I wrote them down. What followed was awkward. After several failed attempts we realized that even with the combined efforts of the group, we couldn’t do it. No one could accurately name the content of the very code they were so eager to see elevated and enforced by the civil authorities. (Perhaps this has something to do with our Baptist ancestors’ dogged insistence on the separation of church and state.)
For the record, these people were dear friends whose commitment to Christ I do not doubt, but my experience that night illustrates something important. We are so eager to use the Ten Commandments in particular and the Bible in general as a weapon in the so-called culture war that we fail to recognize the Bible’s first intent. Scripture wasn’t given to us as a club with which we can beat others over the head; it was given to shape our lives in response to the matchless grace we have found in Jesus Christ. We need to worry first and foremost about whether we are living faithfully and obediently to the revealed truths of God. Absent that, all our righteous declarations against the increasingly pagan culture around us will ring hollow.
That is why starting in July we will preach through the Ten Commandments. Taking one commandment per Sunday, we will work through the entire code as we attempt to understand it more deeply and apply it more faithfully to both our individual and communal lives. My hope is that we will come to see that what God revealed to Moses thousands of years ago remains completely relevant and central to us today. The Ten Commandments still serve as the foundation for building a Godly life.
The recent furor over gay marriage is only the latest salvo in the ongoing culture war. It is a reminder that the world around us is – as it has always been – marked by contention, confusion, and brokenness. In such a world, our calling as God’s people is not to win the war by asserting cultural dominance; our calling is to live a life of holiness and faithfulness to a crucified Lord. Let’s explore the Ten Commandments together as we seek the outline of that life.
See you next Sunday,