Scripture: Exodus 20:1-21
Key verse: (2) “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; . . .”
Reflection: When I was growing up, my parents would say to me “don’t forget who you are”. This was their way of reminding me that I was the daughter of an Air Force officer, a daughter who was loved, and a daughter who belonged to God and the church community. As I recall, they said this a lot to me when I went to high school and later to college! I have never forgotten it. At the beginning of today’s scripture passage, God reminds the people who they are – people who have been set free from slavery by a God who loves them. This reminder is the preface to what we know as the Ten Commandments. These laws were meant to build community and foster trust. Many of our modern-day laws were originally based on these ten commands. For people to get along, laws are necessary.
The large group of people who fled from slavery in Egypt needed a structure for their life together. They had never been free to make their own choices before. How can you trust your neighbor if you are worried that they might steal from you, take your spouse, kill a family member or conspire to take all of your belongings? You can’t build community if people are suspicious of one another. These commandments were meant to provide a framework for building a good life and a strong community. A pattern for life built around the love of God and the love of neighbor was established. Sometimes when we think about the Ten Commandments we think about the way they have been used politically. Fights over if or where they should be posted flare up every few years and are broadcast in the news or social media. This typically starts a discussion about the separation of church and state and the actual content of the commands is largely ignored. For people of faith, they are a reminder of who we are and who we belong to. Like all commands or “rules” they address issues that have already come up or potential issues that might arise. Since we are prone to idolatry – God reminds us not to make idols to worship. Since we are tempted to not have reverence for the living God, we are reminded to pay attention to how we use the LORD’s name. This doesn’t just apply to cursing. A greater issue might be the casual way we might overuse the name of God in everyday speech or prayer. Since we are tempted to overwork, we are reminded to set aside a day of rest because God rested after the work of creation. The last six commands have to do with our relationships with one another. We are called to honor our mothers and fathers (even the ones who are a challenge), never murder, never commit adultery, never steal, never testify falsely, never covet anything belonging to someone else.
Of course, I don’t know anyone who has ever been able to keep all of the commandments, except Jesus. Given our human frailty we will fail. Thank goodness for God’s grace! In times of temptation, we can stop and remember who we are and who we belong to. And when we fail, it is a comfort to know that we can be forgiven and restored. Sometimes this means we will have a legal penalty to pay when we break the law (fines, jail, loss of privileges) or a personal consequence when we have broken trust with another person. We always suffer the consequences of our choices. But, the LORD who brought the people out of the house of bondage can deliver us from our missteps and mistakes. We were given these laws for protection. They set us free to live. Today and every day “don’t forget who you are” – a precious child of God.
Prayer: O LORD, our God, we are grateful for your love and the reminder that we belong to you. Help us to live as your people – showing forth your love, working for justice and living lives that honor you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].