This morning I read some hard-but-true words from my friend Chris Ortiz. He posted on Facebook:
The average opponent to the removal of monuments featuring the Ten Commandments cannot actually tell you what those commandments are, if you were to ask them. I tested many people in this several years ago when this happened in Alabama with Justice Moore. People said, “Let’s see… um.. thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal… um… love thy neighbor,” and I said, “Love thy neighbor is not listed in the Ten Commandments.”
They say, “Oh, it isn’t?” I say, “No, that’s in the New Testament. Love thy neighbor is a partial summary of the Ten Commandments, but it’s not actually listed there. Please continue.”
They say… “Um… don’t commit adultery, don’t steal…” I say, “You already mentioned stealing.” They finally say, “Oh hell, I don’t know them all but they shouldn’t remove it!
I heartily agree with his conclusion:
The greater sin is not the removal of those commandments from a courthouse. If you profess to believe those commandments, the greater sin is the removal of those commandments from your heart and mind.
It’s hard to beat the liberals when we make it so easy for them to make us look silly. As I’ve written before, I don’t care what monuments and slogans we write on the outside; as long as the inside of the courthouse and the law books are not filled with the Commandments, it is bearing God’s name in vain.
I remember after the debate on Mosaic civil law, one of my dear friends who later spoke to me said, “You’re talking about the judicial case laws? I would be happy if we could just got back to the Ten Commandments!” Putting aside all the theological issues about the relationship between the moral and judicial aspects of Mosaic law for the moment, the sentiment is commendable and wise. Ortiz above shows how deep the problem really is: Christians and conservatives themselves have little idea what is in the Commandments on which they claim their civilization is built.
While we could find all kinds of reasons for this—public schooling, laziness, lack of catechizing, the sons of the Anabaptists, and the failure of pulpits to preach the law—the basic starting-point here needs to be self-recognition of the basic failure to know the basic core of God’s Law ourselves, personally.
As Christian individuals, first, we need to return to the high esteem which the Bible has for God’s Law, and make that central to our lives:
I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. . . .
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way (Psalm 119:44–48; 97–104).
Before someone objects that this is all Old Testament, they may wish to see how Jesus looked at it. Jesus thought just as highly of the law, and saw the Commandments not just as great and wonderful, but as necessary to and inseparable from the Christian life:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (14:21–24).
He repeats the lesson:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you (15:9–14).
The author of this Gospel reiterates Jesus’ direct teaching in his later Epistle:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2–3).
Wow! When was the last time you heard such a sermon from our grace-dripping, two-kingdoms, modern pulpits? This IS the love of God: that we keep His commandments!
While Paul does teach that we are no longer “under the law” and are freed from the curse of the law, he nevertheless also adds that the Law is “holy and righteous, and good” (Rom. 7:12). He follows, “I agree with the law, that it is good” (7:16), and “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (7:18). The problem, therefore, is not with the law, but with our breaking of it: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (7:14). “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). The Christian has a different mindset, however: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9). Considering what he has just said about the law, what should this difference of mindset tell you about the Christian’s orientation to the law?
The very distinctive (in this regard) of the New Covenant is not that the law is done away with—quite the contrary! The distinction is that the law—the same law—is written on our hearts and we should know it (Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:7–13; 10:15–18).
This is the stratospheric esteem in which the Bible upholds God’s Law. And most Christians can’t even recite more than a couple of them.
Question: in light of these teachings of the New Testament and of Jesus Himself, how can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t have the Ten Commandments written upon your heart? How can you say you “love Jesus” if His commandments are not first and forefront in your life? How can we claim to be Spirit-filled without also having clear knowledge of, and longing for, His laws?
The church—by which I mean everyone in it from her pastors and leaders all the way down to the lowliest members—needs to repent of our ignorance of God’s standards of living for us, and of our negligence in pursuing them. We need to embrace God’s Law once again.
Then maybe, just maybe, if we begin to right our own ship in regard to loving God’s Standard, we’ll have a leg to stand on when it comes to Restoring America.