Formations lesson for September 16: Matters of Life and Death
August 24 2001 by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:12-13

Formations lesson for September 16: Matters of Life and Death | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Formations lesson for September 16: Matters of Life and Death

By Tom Greene Exodus 20:12-13 The vertical dimension of the Ten Commandments is clear. What Israel is and is to be is determined by God's gift of Himself to them first. The second step is their gift of themselves to Him in response. Their response to others can be seen as the horizontal dimension of the covenant. Individual rights are protected, yet the conditions are also made clear that the larger community has every right to expect certain qualities of conduct from those who enter into the covenant life.

The Promise (Exodus 20:12) Honor your father and your mother; what does it mean? Would we know what it is when we see it? How does one define it, explain it?

Once again the words speak to how we handle and deal with God's gifts. In this situation, the father and mother are the channel of Yahweh's gift of life. No other human relationship is so fundamental and none is more important.

This open-ended commandment invites children to respond in any way that honors parents. It has to do with esteem, duty, respect, having regard and concern, showing affection, considerateness, obedience, generosity, appreciation, thoughtfulness and all sorts of human values, directed toward one's parents.

"Honor your father and your mother," said God, "that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." The New Testament author of Ephesians calls this "the first commandment with a promise" (Eph. 6:1-3). If the Israelites would follow it, they would find structure and strength to exist as a people, and they would endure as a nation.

Do you see what God intended by the law and how the law is fulfilled in the spirit of Christ? It was never meant to be a law of oppression, with one person lording over another. It was meant to be a guideline for love and compassion and forgiveness - enabling us to live with one another in joy and peace. Children are to obey their parents, for this pleases the Lord; and the parents are never to provoke their children, lest their children become disheartened. Life is beautiful in the Lord, if we will only let it be that way.

The Valuing of Life (Exodus 20:13) "You shall not murder." This commandment sought to take life and death out of the hands of the individual and ensure that the prerogative of life and death would remain with God, mediated through the covenant people. Here we see that the basis for this commandment is that all life belongs to God. Life is not for human beings to do with as they will; they are not God. When we take human life, for any reason, one chooses to act in God's stead. The point the commandment was making is that human life is sacred; made in the image of God, and we must treat it so. What the commandment calls for then is a reverence for all life. Life belongs to God, and we should never take it casually or with impunity. Life is always sacred to God.

One can understand that there are ways of killing that do not always connect the person with the crime. We are told that killing isn't merely a matter of what we do, it is a matter of what we think and say. It is a matter of attitude.

This corresponds with Jesus' own teaching in Matthew 5:21-26. Jesus extends the commandment beyond the physical violence to include verbal abuse and other manifestations of anger. Above all, he expresses the concern that reconciliation among those estranged from one another be given a high priority, even above religious practices.

Therefore, we are to do more than refrain from killing, we are to be so converted to a spirit of love that we want to give life, not take it. Christians are to be a life-giving people. We are to be channels of grace for a life-giving God. Not only are we not to take life, we are actually to bestow life.

Life, then, was a sacred trust to the community within the bonds of the covenant and is for us important in all matters of life and death.

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8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:12-13 | with 0 comments
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