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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Exodus 20:1–4, 7–9, 12–20

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” (NRSV)

Fear versus Love

The Ten Commandments were delivered in a scene made for Hollywood with plenty of special effects. There is a mountain on fire with smoke, lightning, trumpets, and thunder. The Israelites are overwhelmed with fear and they ask Moses, "Can you speak for us? If we have to communicate directly with God we will die.” Moses says, "Don't be afraid, God is just trying to scare you into not sinning.” The Ten Commandments are very helpful. The first four are directives for how to live in good relationship with God and the last six are directives for living in good relationship with others; and fear is an effective motivator. It was what the Israelite’s needed at that time to survive and grow as a people.

Fast forward 1,475 years to Jesus's ministry. Spiritually, things have developed and matured. Jesus gives us a new commandment: to “love one another.” He says, “The entire law and the prophets is summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another” (Matthew 22:36-40). If we follow these two, the ten commandments will be covered. Richard Rohr points out that this new seemingly more simplified commandment is much harder. He states that we start anew and we fail every day to really love. “Only by living in love, in communion—God in us and we in God—do we find, every once in a while, a love flowing through us and toward us and from us that is bigger than our own.”

Instead of fear being my motivation, I am going to choose loving well as a goal for each new day.

Dear Jesus, thank you for how you modeled love to us through your life and sacrifice. Help us live lives of loving you, our neighbors, and ourselves every day. Please give us a sense of your holy spirit helping us at every turn to love well. Amen.

Written by Thomas Schemper, Director,
Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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