“See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them . . .”
The Ten Commandments is one of the best known parts of the Bible. Even those who don’t read the Bible can list two or three of them. We may have a deep sense that these laws are given so that we will know how to live an upright life before God.
The Ten Commandments were not originally given as a way for individuals to live moral lives; they were given to shape a community. The Ten Commandments are a summation of the entire law that was given to Israel as a vision for what their communal life should be. While practicing these commands obviously has an individual dimension to it, ultimately they are a
vision for communal life.
False testimony is banned because it will subvert justice; adultery is prohibited because it threatens a multitude of relationships within a community; murder is wrong because it strips another of their right to life. The idea behind these laws is the preservation and building of community.
In Deuteronomy 4:6, we read how the laws of Israel were designed to function in shaping the nation as a community that would be a witness to the world: “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”
This is the impact of a community that lives out God’s intentions for his people. Their practices of righteousness and justice will demonstrate who he is to the world around them. The Church is called to be this community. As the Church practices God’s ideal as found throughout Scripture, we will inevitably be a people of true justice and a community that reflects God’s holy character to the world.
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: EXODUS 20:1–17; DEUTERONOMY 4:5–7
1. What kind of impact do you think your church would have in the community if your church lived out the communal life as reflected in the Ten Commandments?
2. What does it mean to be a community of true justice?
Lee Beach is Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry and Director of Ministry Formation at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, ON. Lee has served in pastoral ministry with The Christian and Missionary Alliance for 22 years and is currently part of a new church plant with his wife, Joanne, in Ancaster, Ontario.