Almost everyone when they first hear of the Ten Commandments thinks, “This is a list of the things that God requires in order to be accepted and approved by Him.”
I’m afraid that we in the church sometimes propagate this same idea. We want to put the Ten Commandments up in our courthouses and schools because we want people to know what God requires of them; and we imply that if our nation will keep the commandments, God will set His love on us and bless us.
This is wrong, and it was wrong 6,000 years ago when God gave Israel these commands. God did not say to Israel, “Here is my Law. Obey my commands, and I will redeem you and bring You to myself and bless you.”
Read the beginning of the Ten Commandments (the prologue). It is Exodus 20:2, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other God’s before me.”
Do you hear what God says? I am the Lord your God who has rescued you from bondage. I have set my love and salvation upon you. Then God begins to talk about the Law.
It is not the Law first, and then when we measure up and have done enough, God loves us. Instead, He loves us and redeems us by sheer grace, and then in the context of a loving relationship He gives us His Law.
Salvation in the Old Testament and the New is by God’s grace alone, through Christ’s work and not our own (Ephesians 2: 8,9). But why then do we need the Law, the rules, if we already have this relationship of love? Can we now just get rid of the rules? I don’t believe we can.
What we must realize is that every love relationship has rules. The rules tell us how that relationship can flourish and love is expressed.
Think about marriage. Marriage is a love relationship between a husband and a wife. Does it have rules? The answer, of course, is “yes.” Most people, when they get married, repeat vows to one another — "rules" — that they promise to keep: I will be faithful to you; I will love you for better or worse; I will never leave you or forsake you. These are guidelines that help a marriage to flourish and grow. When these vows are broken, the relationship is damaged — sometimes even destroyed.
Every love relationship comes with obligations. Parents have obligations to their children and children to their parents. Wives have obligations to their husbands and husbands to their wives. And we have obligations to God when He has brought us into a relationship with Him through the blood of His Son Jesus.
James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.