The Ten Decrees of Love

Readings for March 7, 2021
Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19:8-11
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
John 2:13-25

The Psalmist writes, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul,” going on to use words like “trustworthy,” worthy of “rejoicing,” “clear” … “pure” … “true” … and “precious.” But somewhere along the line the sense of the goodness and truth of the Law seems to have been lost to a focus on the language. And, frankly, the multitude of “Thou Shalt Nots” might have been a bit intimidating. If, perhaps, they had been labeled the Ten Requests, they might have been more widely and easily accepted. It would at least spare many egos from humbling themselves to a seemingly dictatorial God. “Thou shalt not tell me what to do! How about that?” 

Not that the commandments need a rebranding in order for people to treat them as mere suggestions; I think many of us already do that, choosing what feels right at any given point in our lives. But they’re so much more than suggestions or authoritarian words. If I were to be given the opportunity to rename them, I would call them decrees of love. I am not offended by the term Commandment, but I do think that if I examine them through this lens, I can better see that God’s commands are individually and summatively calling me to love.

When broken into three parts, I can see that Jesus’ teaching of loving God (Commandments 1-3) and loving others (Commandments 5-10), with a bridge of the importance of family (Commandment 4), are the cornerstones of the commandments. Jesus, of course, sums it up best when he says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. All the Prophets and the Law hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40) And, because Moses explained to the people that they are to teach the Law to their children and their children’s children (Deuteronomy 4:9), there is the added emphasis of honoring father and mother.

I should not, then, be put off by the language used. When I understand the Commandments and their teaching role in how I reverence God, love others, and honor my family, the commandments no longer seem dictatorial. They are, instead, decrees of love and a way to live life to the fullest. And love is something always worth humbling myself for.

Lord I know Your Law is love. But sometimes I still treat it like a test and forget to let it rule my life. Help me, Lord, follow Your commandments so that I may have everlasting life, promised by Your beloved Son, Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Amen

4 thoughts on “The Ten Decrees of Love

  1. Your post echoes a book I just finished reading. You might enjoy it. It is, “Words of Endearment; The Ten Commandments As a revelation of God’s love,” by Dr. William B Coker, Sr. I believe you can get it on Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great way to see them: “If I were to be given the opportunity to rename them, I would call them decrees of love.” That is perfect. Love that insight.

    Blessings for a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s so easy to misuse language especially with reductionist tendencies. Pretty soon, we have the Word of God contorted.

    I wonder if you ever read any N.T. Wright. I am thinking The Last Word, not one of his new books anymore now…, might illuminate dimensions not easily noticed with our modern lenses.

    Liked by 1 person

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