Does God Actually Expect Us to Follow the Ten Commandments?

I think the answer here is, “Yes.” But, it might be a little more complicated than that.

Arguments about the role that the 10 commanments and the exact role that they should play in the lives of the faithful have a long track record. WAY before people started arguing about whether it was OK to have them placed on the courthouse lawn, theologians, scholars, even Jesus himself, debated about their meaning and the appropriate role they should play in the lives of real people.

As moral frameworks go, the 10 commandments are not optimized for human utilization. The are simultaneously too simple and too complicated be of any practical use. How else would it be possible both for Jesus to boil them down to two statements about love and for Moses to feel the need to expand them into more than 600 specific dictates. Trust me, this goes WAY beyond haggling about whether “Thou shalt not kill” is binding on hunters and soldiers.

Don’t even get me started on St. Paul, who is definitely of two minds on the issue. Though on the one hand, Paul seems to be an expert on “the Law” and a big fan of the Commandments, he also is very clear to say that they don’t hold a candle to Jesus when it comes to issues of salvation.

So, What does that mean for us. If the jury is more-or-less “out” on the Law of the ancient Israelites, what then should we do? What should we tell our friends? What should we tell our children?

If Jesus is right (and I think he is) that the 10 commandments can be summed up in two statements – Love God and Love Your Neighbor – that is, as a relationship, then I think we can feel free to follow his lead. The essence of the commandments is two relationships: one with God and one with others.

However, if we are not to loose total sense of the commandments in and of themselves (and I think we shouldn’t) then we must remember that they framed in the world of action: “do this,” and, “don’t do that.” So the type of relationship that God demands that we have with him and with one another is an active one: an active love.

So in answer to your question, gentle reader, God DOES expect us to keep the 10 commandments to the extent that he expects us to actively remain in relationship with him and with one another.

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