Oftentimes we see the 10 commandments as laws to follow to avoid sin. Actions and things not to do so we can obey God’s teachings. When we view the text this way we miss the point of what God is truly trying to convey in the scripture. Obviously these are good rules to follow but we must look deeper to find the meaning, speaking to us in the word. If we look closer we will find Exodus 20:1-20 speaks about character. In fact, the commandments reveal the nature and character of God and who God is in this world. We learn what God values and who God hopes us to be. It’s a powerful scripture because we get to identify attributes of the divine and know that we too can live them out.
Let’s go through the list to identify the characteristics of God revealed in the 10 commandments.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me. - God is loving
The first commandment reminds us of the love God has for each one of us. It is a response to our love that we have for God which is shown throughout the Torah. God is saying just love me. Love me with your heart, life, and soul. God is loving and commands us to love the divine and others wholeheartedly.
2. You shall not make idols. - God is loyal
God demands us to follow the example set through Jesus. To be loyal disciples that focus our attention on God not other things in this world which grab our attention and pull us from the word. Work, sports, physical bodies, politics, social media, etc. We must figure out what those idols are in our own life and work toward worshiping God first. Ask yourself what do you fear losing the most? We must put God first in all aspects. God is loyal and commands us to show loyalty to the divine.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. - God is respectful
When I hear this I always chuckle a bit because I think about which name. God has many names, Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, etc.; God’s respect shows God’s love for creation. God created each of us and called us by name. It is in the name of each individual in which God understands there is something more. A name is who we are and that should be respected because we are God’s creation. Isaiah 43.1 - Don't be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. God is respectful and commands us to live with respect for others and self.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. - God is restful
God understands the need to refocus and find rest. This pandemic for some has forced us to find rest and identify what makes our lives work. I have heard numerous stories of people who have taken various things off of their plate understanding it was impacting what was important. They have had time to sit, reflect, and rest in the moment. We all need to find a work/ life balance that works for our lives. God wants us to be our best selves which means meeting our own needs by resting and recuperating. Genesis 2:2 - And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day. God is restful and commands us to rest.
5. Honor your father and your mother. - God is about relationships
God believes in creating deep relationships with others. As an example the love of fathers and mothers for their children. We have individuals who are lonely, isolated, and feel unworthy to be in relationships with others. This commandment calls us to do the work of being present with the people around us. Notice who they are and listen to their story. This is where God is and who God is. Deep relationships are at the core of the divine. God longs for a relationship with you. God is about relationships and commands us to focus on relationships.
6. You shall not murder. - God is peaceful
God values life and expects us to take actions that are peaceful and loving toward one another. It is through actions of peace where the holy spirit of God can work among us and our communities. God wants us to pursue wholeness, reconciliation, and justice in all aspects of life. Our daily prayer of peace is just one example of our church living out this characteristic of God. God is peaceful and commands us to be peaceful.
7. You shall not commit adultery. - God is faithful
God wants us to be steadfast in our promises to one another. To give respect by using our words and actions to match our beliefs. When we make commitments we need to follow through with them. We want to wholeheartedly follow through on our duties because it is good for us and others. The less we follow through the more and more control we lose over our lives. It becomes easier to fall into irresponsible behaviors and actions that harm our world. God is faithful and commands us to be faithful.
8. You shall not steal. - God is generous
God wants us to be sincere with one another and generous in nature. It’s not about stealing but giving to one another when there is a need. We must open our eyes and see the impoverished among us. Let your heart be broken and allow it to change your perspective allowing you to be generous with what you have. Being generous is about giving from our bounties so there is not a need to steal to make ends meet. It’s about going beyond our capacity to impact others in ways beyond our understanding. God works within our generosity. God is generous and commands us to be generous.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. - God is truthful
God is truth; We need to speak truth to our world and be honest in nature. Being truthful with one another is at the heart of God. Relationships are built on trust. If you cannot trust then you have nothing. Build trust with those around you by being sincere, genuine, and truthful. God is truthful and commands us to be truthful.
10. You shall not covet. - God is thankful
Often when we are thankful when we are content and happy with what we have. We forget about what we don’t have and can live in the moment with how things are. Thankfulness is an amazing characteristic as it brings us joy. The divine is telling us to live with gratefulness. Truly hold it in your heart every second of every day. God is thankful and commands us to be thankful.
It's About Community
As I indicated earlier these characteristics are both in God but what God expects out of us as disciples. He expects us to make responsible choices in our life by living these principles. But more than anything God sent Moses back with these laws for the community to live out. You see that is where the real heart of this message takes another yet deeper spin. It's about community, about supporting, loving, and being with one another just as God is with us.
So the question is how are you going to live these commandments within your community? I believe the change that is needing to happen starts with us and embodying these principles in our own lives and work.
A few people asked me to pass on these words after my message a week ago and I thought maybe others may benefit from this perspective. Thanks for everyone who follows our blog.
This week think about these characteristics and how you are living them out in your life.
June 25, 2020 was World Pride Day! It was a day to celebrate LBGTQIA+ individuals and the movement for acceptance. I was able to watch Toronto Community of Christ online worship ton June 28th which was focused on LBGTQIA+ awareness and radical hospitality. It was an awesome worship led by ministers who are LBGTQIA+ in the Community of Christ in conjunction with Harmony (non-profit organization focused on LBGTQIA+ advocacy and education to congregations in Community of Christ). You can check it out on the YouTube video below.
LBGTQIA+ individuals have historically been rejected and ostracized by faith groups for centuries causing deep pain and great harm to people. The inner conflict between beliefs which have been instilled in individuals and their own sexual orientation has caused significant turmoil to navigate. Some have found refuge in family while others have been rejected by those closest to them. Faith communities have often turned their back. Though the world today is slowly becoming a better and more safer place for those who are LBGTQia+ religious organizations tend to still be a place of division and pain for such individuals. Especially for those who grew up in one of the largest religious institutions who continue to not uphold same sex marriage and equal rights for those who are LBGTQia+.
This is one of many reasons why Topeka Community of Christ felt compelled to have a booth at the September 2019 Topeka Pride Picnic. They wanted to show support and give another perspective on religion and faith. To provide an open door for those who may want to talk about faith. Community of Christ was one of three faith groups who had a booth at the event. The community of Topeka has over 40 different religious denominations.
It was a wonderful event in which people were celebrated for who they are without any judgment. The members of Community of Christ said just being present at the event and talking with those who came by was a learning experience about how to be more welcoming as a church. It was a first step in creating an atmosphere were others can come and feel welcomed immediately and supported for who they are. They learned about the importance of using inclusive language, having documents and materials openly state the acceptance of all people, and clear visualizations showing all are welcome. Topeka hopes to participate further in Topeka Pride and be a safe place for all those who come through the doors.
Thank you to all those who are out there supporting and advocating for LBGTQIA+ in your communities. Keep it up!
This week connect with someone different than you. Listen to their story and learn something about who they are that you didn't know.
Our guest blogger this week is Kalene West. Kalene lives in Topeka, KS and attends the Topeka Community of Christ. Kalene grew up going to Catholic services as well as Community of Christ worship when her grandmother would take her. When she was 14 years old she decided to join Community of Christ as a member after an experience at Racine campgrounds in Southern Missouri. Camps have been a major part of Kalene's spiritual life and continue to be when she attends Reunion at Camp Chihowa. She looks forward to being a part of the community formed at Chihowa during family camp and is going to share her experiences with you today.
Attending camp has always been special for me! There I experience joy, fun activities, and the love of being in community with others. It is also where I meet God reflecting on my own spiritual journey. When I was 14 it was during a campfire, prayer circle where I first felt that quiet, peaceful connection to God. It was that spirit that transformed me. In that campfire experience I felt the need and desire to join Community of Christ. I talked with my father about the experience and he supported my decision to be baptized. I have never regretted my decision to further my discipleship in the Community of Christ since. This is just one of many campfire experiences I have had. Campfires are special because I get to sing and I love singing! I also get to hear all the sounds of nature. They are also special because they set the mood for the spirit to work within our hearts and souls.
Some of you may not know, but I was born with a small eye condition which resulted in me being blind and unable to see. Yes I would love to be able to see God's beautiful creation but I also recognize the benefit from the immense love shown to me through this disability. I believe I will see all of God's beauty in heaven. The School for the Blind in Kansas City helped me learn how to get around and learn about the world. It is through my eye condition that I have encountered and experienced the ongoing gift of love through others. I encounter this love even more when I am at camp.
The camping experience has continued to be instrumental in furthering my relationship with God. I now attend Camp Chihowa near Perry, KS. It is here where I experience the breath of God moving through my life through the community and love formed. I love reunion and wait patiently each year for this experience because of the variety of things that connect me.
Camp Chihowa has become a special place for me because of the amazing people I have met. Each year I am surprised at the love present and the kind acts of people to assist me. Because of the uneven ground and unknown environment I often have to remain close to the main lodge. However people go out of their way to walk with me. I remember two years ago 8 youth took me on a long walk around the campgrounds where I was able to get to know them and what is going on in their lives. This was the highlight of the week for me as they took the time to be with me. I also love going to sit by the peace pole and hear the chimes near it.
The morning prayer group is also something that stands out for me. Though its just a small group that likes to get up early, we have strength as we pray for the needs of the people and camp each morning. It is among this sacred space and people that I experience the spirit moving. Camp also has helped me form strong prayer partners that continue throughout the year until we connect in person again the following year.
Other highlights of camp for me are the talent show when I get to read braille and learn about the gifts of others. I also love going to class and participating in Don't Forget the Lyrics, hymn addition. It is in the variety of experiences throughout the week that I find God being fully present and alive with us.
I believe the community formed at reunion is as close to Zion as we can get. People need each other and throughout the week we recognize that need. We collectively allow ourselves to connect at a deeper level with one another and move ourselves out of the way so God can work. It's a week of fun, its a week of relaxation, but more importantly its a week of renewal. Its a week to allow God to be fully present in our lives not just individually but communally. I invite all of you to come to reunion this year and experience this Zionic community. I promise you won't regret it.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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