Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: 10 commandments

The Ten: Don’t Hurt People

Do not kill. (Exodus 20:13, Common English Bible)

There is a story in Genesis of two brothers, the world’s first two brothers: Cain and Abel. They both brought sacrifices to God. Able brought the first and best of his sheep, while Cain brought scraps from his harvest. Their tithing was their worship. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering, and not so favorably on Cain’s offering.

In a fit of jealousy and anger, Cain kills his brother Abel.

The world’s first murder.

Perhaps this story from the Hebrew tradition is what came to mind for the Hebrews when Moses announced this commandment. Life is a precious gift given by God. The responsibility for giving and taking life belonged to God. But the commandment to not kill may have a broader stroke.

Terence Fretheim writes about this commandment:

….any act of violence against an individual out of hatred, anger, malice, deceit, or for personal gain, in whatever circumstances and by whatever method, that might result in death.

“Any act of violence” with the intention of death.

Recently our community had bomb threats at a number of area schools, elementary through high school. A fire drill blared, and the students, in orderly lines, went outside. Some of the students were funneled into school buses. The next day there were children who did not want to go to school. They were filled with anxiety and fear. And I can’t blame them. If I was in the first grade and had that experience, I most likely would fight my parents to not go to school.

The person or persons who called in these bomb threats are attempting to act in God’s stead. This act of violence goes against God’s loving creation. The effects of this act will last longer than that moment, which can be wildly dangerous. God beckons us to place value on the lives of others.

Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, goes a bit farther. Jesus, always one to turn the world upside down, tells the crowd that the commandment goes beyond physical violence. Verbal abuse and other expressions of anger, hatred, malice, and so on. Jesus extends the commandment to include anything that we might do to hurt others. Name-calling, gossiping, back-stabbing, (all the stuff you see happening on House of Cards), is damaging to the person you do that to. It kills a part of them. And frankly, it kills a part of us as well.

When we hurt others – in physical, emotional, or verbal ways – we are hurting God’s plans for a safe and loving world. When we call in bomb threats that leave first graders huddled on a cold school bus, we are disrupting God’s plan for a safe and loving world. When we choose vile and selfish ways to keep people out (even in the name of God), we rattle God’s plan for a safe and loving world.

In the beginning, God created and it was good. When we hurt others, we disturb the goodness of God’s creation. And that is not good.

The Ten: Respect God’s Name

Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way. (Exodus 20:7, Common English Bible)

The Ten - jasoncstanley.comThe other day I was at Taco Bell ordering lunch. After I ordered and paid, the woman behind the counter told me to have a blessed day and “Jesus loves you.” I was kind of surprised. I have been told by many to have a blessed day. But I think this was the first time I was told by a clerk, “Jesus loves you.” Not even in a Christian bookstore have I been told that “Jesus loves me.” But here, in the tiny Taco Bell, Jesus loves me.

When we think of the commandment of “do not take God’s name in vain,” we often think of swearing or profanity. To use the Lord’s name in vain is to use God’s name as a curse. While there is truth to this understanding, there is so much more to this commandment. God’s name is a powerful thing, and it should not be taken for granted, but held with the most respect.

God tells the Israelites that he spares them from the plagues, “to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). When Jesus gives the Great Commission, he tells the disciples to baptize in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The name of God points to the Kingdom. It is disrespectful to use God’s name in a way that does not point to God’s kingdom.

Seminaries in the south became experts as theologically reasoning why enslaving African-Americans was not only okay, but ordained by God. In the name of God, they enslaved other human people. During the Civil Rights era, church going people bombed churches and houses, burned crosses, and killed other human beings in the name of God.

The purpose of the commandment is to protect the holy and divine name of God from being used to distract others from said holiness. When we use God’s name to promote hatred towards others, we are using God’s name in vain. When we use God’s name to put down others and make them “less holy,” we become less than holy as we misuse God’s name. When we judge others and condemn them to an eternity without God, we disrespect the name of God and God’s kingdom.

God is so much bigger than anything we can say or do, decide or plan. And God’s name is meant for praise and adoration. God’s name is meant to witness to God’s kingdom. Instead, perhaps, we can be more like the Taco Bell clerk who tells us, “Jesus loves you.”

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