4th-8th Commandments (Exodus 20:12f)
Digging Deeper: These commandments have to do with ‘loving our neighbor’. They’re about how our well-being is tied to the well-being of our neighbors. In the Small Catechism Luther reminds us that the spirit of the commandment calls us to do something positive, and not just-for example-avoid killing or stealing.
#4-Honor your father and your mother. (The only command with a promise attached to it: “that your days may be long in the land…”) Luther notes that this includes honoring “others in authority”.
#5-You shall not murder. Life is a gift from God. It’s for us to protect. What does it take to be a life-saver? Where does advocacy for food programs and health care fit in? Or advocacy for refugees fleeing conflict and violence or famine in their homeland? How can we make sure ALL lives are valued equally?
#6-You shall not commit adultery. We basically understand that the marriage relationship is sacred and to be respected. So what are we to do? How do we encourage couples and help them grow strong marriages? How do we teach young people about healthy relationships and sexual attitudes?
#7-You shall not steal. We get that. That would extend just as well to “no cheating on taxes”, and probably no profiting at someone else’s expense. So what are we commanded to do? Luther adds: “Help our neighbor protect their property and means of making a living.” What implications might this have on laws? Policies? Economic practices? As well as individual behavior?
#8-You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. So far we’re taught to protect parents, life, marriage and sexuality, and property. Now we’re commanded to protect reputations. Gossip, slander, innuendo are to be ‘off limits’. What ARE we to do? Luther says we’re to “defend our neighbors; speak well of them; and explain their actions in the kindest way.” Will you take up that challenge? What difference does it make to view ALL people as “neighbors”, and to find ways to ‘speak well of them’, including people of different races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientation?
Each of the commandments serves a deep purpose and has a long reach. We’re to learn and teach and keep them all! Which one of these 5 presents the biggest challenge for you? Which one do you feel you could be a good trainer for?
Next week, Exodus 20:17 (9th & 10th Commands on ‘no coveting’.)