The phrase 'the Ten Commandments' conjures up images of rules set in stone.
To many inside or outside the Christian Churches that is exactly what the Ten Commandments are; absolute rules and more importantly, central to the Christian faith.
the illustration, right, shows the
ten commandments, literally
set in stone (slate in this case)
in an English Parish Church
The commandments are set out in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, as laws for the nomadic Jewish community. They set out the basis for relationships - between God and the community, and between the members of the community.
What did Jesus Say ?
Jesus was once asked which commandment was the greatest. Its not entirely clear whether the questioner was trying to lay a trap for a supposedly unsophisticated itinerant preacher, or genuinly wanted to hear Jesus opinion.
This is Jesus' answer;
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."
Matthew ch 22 v 34-39
This reply has become known to Christians as 'the Great Commandment'.
Some new 'Commandments'
At a service some years ago, members of the congregation were asked to suggest some new 'commandments'.
Two main themes emerged from the discussion;
Celebrate the world God has made and treat it as sacred
Do not abuse the planet
Respect God, respect others, respect the earth
You shall not consume more than your share of the world's resources
Live simply, that others may simply live
Welcome migrant workers
Be faithful in your relationships to others and to the world
Do not try to live by commandments
Practise the ways of God with justice, peace and integrity, and in love towards the whole of creation
Here and now ...
Early Christian leaders and teachers, especially the Apostle Paul, made it clear that much of the detail of the laws in the old testament were not binding on the Christian community. The issue caused significant tensions then; (the Apostles Paul and Peter had at least one flaming row on the subject) and it continues to do so now.
The Great Commandment - which both simplifies and extends the scope of the ten commandments - lies at the heart of Christian belief.
Throughout this website you will see issues addressed which would have been irrelevant - or inconceivable - in the 1st century AD. These, like the 'new commandments' above - are based on the continuous re-thinking of how the Great Commandment translates into action in the 21st Century.
The Christian message is not about living by rules; it is about living in ways which give effect to Jesus's Great Commandment.
revised 13 Sept 2018