Ten Commandments of Love

See Coniaris “Love is the Great Command” (Homilies from an Orthodox Pulpit, pp.113-116)

   Millions of people watch the news including CNN which stands for Cable News Network. It was the first news network on cable television. Do any of the young people here today know who founded CNN? How about the older people? CNN was founded by Ted Turner. Quite famous for many things, a lot of people don’t know that he is an avowed atheist and he created his own version of the Ten Commandments, which he called the Ted Commandments. He did this on purpose to displace the original Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. He said the originals were too old and out of date.

   A lot of Christians might scoff at Ted Turner’s stance towards the biblical commandments. But we should ask ourselves, can I name the Ten Commandments? And secondly, do I follow the Ten Commandments? Jesus addresses the issue today in the Gospel passage from the Twelfth Sunday of Matthew (19-16-26). When the rich young ruler approaches Jesus and asks him, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? (v.16), Jesus replies, if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (v.17). The young ruler replies, “Which ones?”

   At this point we could infer that the young man either does not know the commandments or he is applying some sort of reductionism looking for the bare minimum required. How does Jesus reply? Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

   Here Jesus quoted five of the Ten Commandments plus “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). And by doing so, our Lord is not negating the other five but rather endorsing all ten and by extension the whole of the Law. This is important for everyone to remember because we live in an age where many people cannot name the Ten Commandments or they might think of them as the Ten Suggestions. Still others, think of them as part of the Old Testament and an expression of the angry, mean, controlling God that authored them. However, this contrast between an angry, distant Father God of the OT and the sweet, loving Jesus of the NT is a false dichotomy. They are one and the same God.

   The thinking that the Ten Commandments are meant to control us is a distortion. If we look closely, the commandments are an expression of love. On one hand, the love of a God who made us and who knows how we work and want us to have live. On the other hand, the love that we humans are supposed to show to each other. And thirdly, the love that we humans are to share with our Creator. The Ten Commandments are the definition of love. They establish its boundaries. The Ten Commandments make love concrete and tangible.

   Let’s look at the Ten Commandments as God revealed them to Moses that are recorded in Exodus 20:2-17. And see how love is expressed in them.

  1. 1.     2"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. 2.     4"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. 3.     7"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. 4.     8"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. 5.     12"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. 6.     13"You shall not murder.
  7. 7.     14"You shall not commit adultery.
  8. 8.     15"You shall not steal.
  9. 9.     16"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. 10.            17"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."

   In conclusion, Let us remember that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of God’s love for us, our love for God and how we can love our neighbor as ourselves. Let us also remember that we may never perfectly fulfill the commandments of God’s love. We live in a fallen world but Jesus gives us hope in the closing verse of today’s Gospel. 26But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”