10: Building A Cross-Based Life
We are currently in the midst of a sermon series called “Numbers Matter.” Each week we’re focusing on a different number prominent in scripture and talking about how it can help shape our faith today. So far we’ve covered the numbers 3, 4, 6, and 7. Today’s number is 10.
10 is a combination of 4 and 6. Both of these numbers have to do with creation (the earthly realm as opposed to the heavenly realm). 4 reminds us of the 4 corners of the earth and 6 is a number that represents humanity, as humans (male and female) were created on the 6th day. So 10 is a number that signifies how we order and structure our lives on earth; how we live our lives, governed by our faith in God. For example, Jesus told a story about 10 bridesmaids that challenges us to think about how ready we are to receive God’s grace into our lives. He once healed 10 lepers as a way of reminding us to live lives of gratitude for that gift of grace. And the Law of the Old Testament instructs us to give a 1/10 (10%) of what we have – regularly – as an offering to God as way of showing that gratitude. So 10 is a number that has to do with how we order our lives governed by our faith in God.
Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the 10 Commandments, which is reading today from Exodus Read EX 20:1-17.
The first 3 commands of the 10 Commandments are about God – how we view God and treat God. First, we shall have no other gods before God. God is the ultimate source of our life and happiness, and if we seek other things, thinking they will give us life and happiness, we will see that they fail in comparison to God. Second, we must not worship idols, meaning that God cannot be contained in, or by, any 1 thing – whether that’s an object, a behavior, an opinion or and ideology. God is always more than what any of us may think about God in any particular moment. And third, we shall not make wrongful use of the Lord’s name. This is the command we commonly think of as not taking the Lord’s name in vain. But this is about much more than cursing or swearing. It is about not asking God to do something contrary to God’s purpose; asking God to serve our will instead of seeking to serve God’s will.
Those are the first 3 and the next 7 are more directly about us. Number four, we are to keep the Sabbath – there must be a day for worship in our lives. Five, honor mother and father; 6, no killing; 7, no adultery; 8 no stealing or (#10) coveting; and 9, no lying.
We could spend hours discussing and debating each one, and what it means. Literally. When it comes to #5 – honoring mother and father – we could ask who is our mother and father? What if we were adopted; or raised by grandparents, step-parents or foster parents? What if we consider them our “real” parents? Whom do we honor, let alone how? And with #6, is all killing “bad?” What about Osama Bin Laden? Are some killings “justified?” What about a “just” war? Is there such a thing as a “just” war? What does it mean to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest (#4)? Does emailing from home count, as long as we don’t go into the office? And lying? Number 9? Does this mean no “white lies” are allowed? Even if we do it to protect someone’s feelings?
If the 10 Commandments were simple and easy to understand in light of all human experiences, the bible would stop just two books in. Instead the 10 Commandments are the first words about faith and not the last ones. They represent the very same thing Jesus came to earth to share with us. When it comes to ordering our lives spiritually, Jesus said two things are most important. First, honoring God. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all other things will fall into place.” And that’s what the first 3 commandments are about – letting God be God and recognizing at the same time that neither we – nor anything or anyone else – is God. So we should stop chasing after people, opinions, ideologies and objects as if they were.
And second, Jesus said, honoring our neighbor as just as important. Which is what the rest of the commandments are about. First, we start with those closest to us – our family (those we consider our family, whether they are biologically related or not). That’s what honoring parents means. We always heal from the inside out. To be able to practice honor and love – giving and receiving it – at home helps prepare and equip us to do it in the wider world.
To honor our neighbor is to strive to remove violence from our lives. That’s what no killing means. Starting with at least not inflicting physical damage on others. Yes… words hurt, wound and injure, but fists and bullets and blades can kill. Peace is so much more than the cessation of violence but peace, if it is ever to be attained, begins here.
To honor our neighbor is to keep our commitments. Adultery, at its core, is the breaking of a sacred commitment. But God desires that we are true to our word, letting our ‘yes’ be yes and our ‘no’ be no; and that we are people others can depend and rely on.
To honor our neighbor is to be honest with them. That’s what not bearing false witness is about. I know we all probably tell “white lies” from time to time. And we say it’s to protect others. In actually, though, it’s more likely ourselves that we are protecting from discomfort. I’m not saying that all lies are bad, or that we don’t dance around the line occasionally, but I do believe that the pain of a lie cuts much deeper and bleeds much longer than the pain of the truth ever could.
And to honor our neighbor is to be content with what we have. When we’re grateful for what we do have, there becomes no need to steal or covet what we don’t. We always have more grace and giftedness in our lives than we see in our weakest and most needy moment.
That’s what the 10 Commandments represent. Honoring God. Honoring our neighbor. Starting here. And ordering our lives based on these two things. Which is also why it’s no surprise that the cross is so fundamental to our faith. The cross is made up of two pieces. A vertical piece and a horizontal piece. The vertical piece symbolizes our connection to God; our love of God; our honoring God; bringing together the earthly and heavenly realms. The horizontal piece connects us to our neighbor – those we live with in this earthly realm. The cross is such a powerful image for us, because it encompasses the essence of the 10 Commandments – and Jesus’ Great Commandment (to love God and to love our neighbor) – and shows us that the way to properly order and structure our lives as God’s people on earth, is to live a Cross-Based Life.