The Decalogue, more commonly known as the ten commandments, were given to Moses atop of Mt Sinai amid thunder and lightning. They were given to the children of Israel so that they would obey God and keep doing the right thing. Then we have these two great commandments in the New Testament – to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself because on these hang all the law and the prophets. What this means is that these two great commandments cover all the ten commandments given to Moses and they are all we need. When we love God and our neighbour as ourselves we will automatically be putting the ten commandments into practice. It is a way of carrying out God’s will from love for him and our neighbour not simply out of blind obedience to God’s commands and fear of him.
Now we know that God does not ever make demands upon us. He just gives us choices and freedom of choice and protects our freedom with the apple of his eye. So what are called commandments can be viewed as guidelines for our happiness. If we were to break one of the commandments, it does not mean that God will love us any less. It simply means that we have missed the mark and must choose again, knowing the consequences of doing wrong. That is how we learn and grow to become the people we were created to be. It is through our life experiences that we learn to make good choices and God can bring us further along the path to him. Perhaps we should not be so condemning of people who do wrong, knowing that they are still on the path to God but are experiencing what doing wrong feels like so they can make better choices next time.
I like the idea of restorative justice. It means putting right what harm you have done so that you can move on and the other person can feel satisfied that justice has been done. When we make amends for wrong we have done we are more likely to choose a better path and feel God’s forgiveness and mercy, enabling us to move on.
There is a startling statement in the last chapter of the Bible – “Behold, I make all things new.” Let me give you an example of what I think is meant by this statement. It is a way of making the point that there is to be a new way of doing things in the world, new attitudes, and good outcomes. These must happen within each one of us first and eventually affect the world as a whole.
Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has suffered a lot and does not know how to find peace of mind within their feelings of grief, anger, bitterness and despair. If you were this person you might find yourself attacking the world in frustration or throwing fits of temper, taking out your bitterness on others. Think, for example, of the bully in the world today. Can you see that this person is someone in need of much loving attention and in need of being made new?
Can this person be blamed? We must understand a person’s background and what has lead them to their behaviour before passing judgment. Often a cycle of abuse or deprivation has gone on for many generations. Who should get the blame? Before we judge another by their cover let’s look within and see if we can’t bring a little compassion to the situation. We all have inherited tendencies that get us into trouble and parts that are hurting as a result of someone else’s tendency let loose. Unless our hurts are healed we will continue to lash out or behave in ways that are detrimental to ourselves and others.
Its hard to be trained out of a bad habit without our understanding what has been behind it all along. If those hurts and shame that are hidden in the heart of the bully are brought out into the open the bully can begin to understand his or her own behaviour. Only love can heal a hurting heart – love from the source of all love and goodness. Each time a symptom appears – the harming of another in some way – we have the opportunity to bring God’s love to a hurting heart. God’s healing of the hurts and shame of the bully is the way they are made new and their destructive tendencies are made quiescent. This is a gradual process. If God were to take away all our imperfections of character in one fell swoop, it would leave a gaping hole. We cannot be changed overnight. But new life can be ours if we keep opening up to his love, and giving up hurtful ways. As these old ways are relinquished, gradually the old tendencies are pushed aside and new life takes their place.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away… Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 4, 5).
The time has come for us to break the cycle of violence in the world and start seeing one another with new understanding – respecting our diversity; listening; looking beneath the surface for God’s goodness and lovingly encouraging one another to bring the things that stand in the way of that goodness out in the open to be healed. All things new is the promise but we must do our part if new ways of living are to flourish, bringing peace and harmony to the world.