Quoting the Bible is a funny thing. It seems to me that, if the title of this message were “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” your reaction might be different. And yet, because we know the context of this quote from Exodus 20 – the ten commandments, the picture I have attached to this blog makes a lot more sense. In God’s commandments, the overarching theme is one of care. God cares for you. God cared for the Israelites, and released them from slavery and gave them rules that would make their lives better. That’s it.
If the Ten commandments were part of a Law book, we would spend our time parsing the specifics of exactly how these laws should be enforced – and maybe even come up with volumes of words specifying just how to follow the law in every possible manifestation.
But the Ten Commandments are part of a story of Love – God loves. By continually pouring Love into a group of people (the Israelites) who certainly were traumatized by 400 years of slavery, God shows us the Love is the most important piece of the puzzle.
So, the commandment to honor or obey your parents is at heart a love letter, from a loving parent (God) to protect, and care, so that ‘you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.’ A love letter with a promise.
That’s how to read Exodus, my friends, with a promise.
And, by the way it’s how to read the whole Bible, even Romans 13, where the Apostle Paul writes to Christians who are cowering in Rome, being hunted down and punished by the Emperor, during the early years of Christianity. There is much turmoil in their lives, and in their city. The Jews (who the Christians have semi-separated from at this time) are thinking of revolt. Paul gives them good advice to obey the authorities rather than to revolt with the Jews. He wants them to survive. Our Verse by Verse Bible class on Thursday read Romans last year, and, in context, its a great book. But quoting out of context “Obey the civil authorities” as a reasoning for a current immigration policy, just doesn’t make sense – from a Biblical point of view.
Occasionally the words of God in the Bible go out on a limb and say something huge – something that should be writ large in our hearts and in our newspapers – and this is it – from Matthew –
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”