Instruction Manual for Life: the 10 Commandments

Today I’m continuing a thought process that I began a couple weeks ago, you can find it HERE. We’re talking about how to live a good life. 

Almost everyone has heard of the 10 commandments. It’s generally one of the few things that the world knows about Christianity – the world thinks there’s a bunch of rules and it’s no fun. But why all these rules? And why do they matter to me? Why am I talking about them? Why should they matter to you? Frequently, when we talk about Christianity, we don’t talk about sin. It’s not polished and pretty. But the truth of the matter is that the failure to talk about sin is to ignore the evil in the world and to ignore the reason we need Christ in the first place.

I’ve come to see that these rules, while on their face are prohibitions, are actually boundaries set around life to keep us safe. They’re a set of instructions for living a good life. When followed, they prevent human suffering. If we’d imagine Eden, I think we’d imagine a place that perfectly adheres to these rules. And when we perceive earth, and the people in it, we see that these rules are very often set aside. And it’s when we don’t follow them that we suffer. 

  • You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3, NIV)
  • You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (v4)
  • You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. (v7)
  • Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (v8)
  • Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
  • You shall not murder. (v13)
  • You shall not commit adultery. (v14)
  • You shall not steal. (v15)
  • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.(v16)
  • You shall not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbor. (v17)

The suffering we experience when we don’t follow these rules is not a punishment from God, it’s a natural consequence to overrunning the boundaries that prevent suffering. We cause our own suffering. We blame God because he allows it, and we wouldn’t suffer. It’s an obvious refusal to take responsibility – we make choices and then we suffer. Others make choices that affect us and we suffer.

The truth is that humans do what we’ve been told not to do and we get the consequences of those actions. This is on us, not on God. There’s also evil in this world. That evil, convinces us that doing these things will feel good and thus, we should do them. It’s true that many of these things feel good while we are doing them. We receive pleasure from them for so long as we do them. 

It’s only when we no longer want to do them that we have pain. Or when we receive consequences of doing them that we have pain. An example is that for the one who steals, he has the pleasure of obtaining something without having to work for it. The natural consequence is that the one from whom the thief steals feels the pain of that loss. And when the thief is caught, he will feel the consequences of punishment from society as a whole  in going to jail, or paying a fine and restitution. 

We often believe that failing to follow all these rules won’t send us to hell. And we think, it’s surely not going to hurt us. So long as we don’t get caught doing them. Is that really true though? The adulterer does not suffer until he is caught? Does the spouse suffer if she does not know? Does their marriage not suffer from the division adultery causes? Is their intimacy not broken? What about the introduction of diseases and extramarital pregnancy to the marriage. And what about the pain that the other woman experiences. There’s suffering for all involved in adultery, even if they don’t get caught. 

For Christians, we’re protected from hell by the sacrifice Christ gave us. This does not give us a license to sin. (Romans 6:1-2) It waters down the message of our example of being in the world, and it puts us into our own version of suffering. We receive the natural consequences of our actions – the knowledge that what we’re doing is wrong along with the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of sinning 

The only answer to the problem of sin and its consequences: Love. Christ’s love specifically. Christ’s love is an outpouring of the love of the Father. God is love.  (1 John 4:8)

It’s God’s love that sent Jesus here to earth to die for the sins of others. To show us all a way out of our sin, guilt, and shame. (John 3:16) It’s Jesus’ love for all mankind that spurred him to go to the cross and die. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” (Heb. 12:2 NLT)

When we are brought into the family of Christianity, we are made into new people (1 Corinthian 5:17), we have been unburdened of our consequences from our sin, and we put aside the guilt and shame. We are loved perfectly. The response to that love is to turn away from sin, to follow the instructions which guide us to live a better life, and to tell others about the grace that saved us. That is truly the good news – that we were saved from our suffering and we didn’t do anything to deserve it. 

I hope you’re enjoying this series! I’d love for you to join the conversation. Enter your comment below! If you’d like to subscribe, type your email below and you’ll receive all new posts to your inbox. I don’t sell your information or spam you. See you there, friend!

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