With the most recent installment of this series, one dealing with the Third Commandment, we reached a kind of milestone in our discussion of the commandments.
Heretofore, the commands given by God have discussed our relationship with Him:
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not take the Name of the Lord Your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.
This second table, starting with the most basic of our relationships and fanning out to the rest of those we have in the world, guide and govern how we are to relate to others, the people on this planet who the Bible expansively call our "neighbors."
In this, we see what is most important to God. He made human beings, it turns out, in order to create a web of self-giving love between Himself and us and among all of us. Our holy relationships were breached when humanity fell into sin. God's project with us ever since has been to restore those relationships, first with Him and then through Him, with our neighbors.
It's no accident that when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus, drawing specifically on two Old Testament passages, summarized the two tables of the commandments:
He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)Thankfully, after an honest examination of the Ten Commandments demonstrates how far we fall short of loving God and loving neighbor, God doesn't leave us to wallow in a sense of futility or despair. He has reached out to us through Jesus, offering forgiveness and new life to all who turn from sin and trust in Him.
The Gospel lesson shared by many, if not most, of the Christians in the world this past weekend found Jesus telling us, "I am the vine and you are the branches." Connected to Christ by faith, our relationship with Him is restored and our relationships with others are empowered.
If the commandments point us to Jesus Christ then, they've done their job.