Those who love Thy law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble. (Psalm 119:165 NASB)
Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. (Romans 10:5 ESV)
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned the “hidden” stained glass at Zion portraying the 10 commandments. I suggested that these basic instructions need to be draw out into the open, into the public eye. This is a matter of paramount importance for our time.
We live in a society that lacks a moral compass: characterized by widespread relativism, lawlessness, and disregard for authority. There is a perverse notion that we can form, educate, and sustain an ethical civilization entirely on secular grounds. To this end, organizations such as Freedom from Religion have made it their mission to stamp out any vestige of God or the 10 commandments in our American public schools or courts. This is tragic and foolish “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1).
Even an atheistic philosopher like Friedrich Nietzsche anticipated that such a move would be disastrous: “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident... Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole” (In Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer). In his Sermon on Keeping Children in School, Martin Luther imagines what a secular society would lo0k like: “Ought not famine to come? Ought not pestilence, flu, and syphilis find us out? Ought not blind, fierce, and savage tyrants come to power? Ought not war and contention arise? Ought not evil regimes appear?”
To defend against this sad state Martin Luther recommend that the (public!) “schoolmaster should explain simply and correctly the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, at another time, the Creed, at another, the Ten Commandments. He should emphasize what is necessary for living a good life, namely, the fear of God, faith, good works.” To disregard the ten commandments inevitably results in the loss of the good life and good works. Also attached to these is a universal warning—all those who disregard them will suffer the consequences of their sin.
On the other hand, the 10 commandments are given by the Lord to the world as a blessing. When we study these teachings we see how God intended us to live. To know these by heart equips us with wisdom to “counsel, help, comfort, judge, and make decisions” in all matters says Luther. The Lord promises that teaching these to our children is will yield lifelong blessing for them and countless others.
The commandments begin by emphasizing a proper relationship between God and ourselves. This starting point represents radical discontinuity with conventional morality. According to prevailing logic, morality decisions are based on how we treat one another and by so-called individual human rights. The commandments reorder such thought—calling us to repent, and daily consider our lives as they truly are—before God.
In this way, we face the truth that our lives are not free from sin. We have said, done, and thought ungodly things before God and one another. Finally, the 10 commands point and drive us to Jesus who fulfilled them on the cross and frees us from condemnation. Best of all, Jesus continues to use his word to educate us through his Holy Spirit with a peace that this world cannot give.
May God bestow his divine wisdom upon us as we take all our “thoughts captive to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5)