It’s helpful to view the Ten “Commandments” in this way because it helps get us around some of the difficulty we have with being told what to do. These words are not meant to instill fear. They are meant to be advice on how to get along with each other. It’s a primer for a relational practice.
I suspect it was the power structures who began to refer to them as “commandments” because it’s easier to control that way. They were afraid of losing power and passed that fear down to us in the form of indoctrination. But we can look back now and compare notes.
The summary? We are being asked by God to just get along. We are being asked by God to use our powers for good. The metaphor of the “Kingdom of God on Earth” is about peace. It is about relationship. Peace on Earth is not the final destination, it is only the beginning. The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus, along with those of our other spiritual prophets, are primers for establishing a peaceful society over time. What might we do with a peaceful existence on this planet? What problems might be solved if we only turned our cheek away from fighting and focused our creativity, our abundance, and our ingenuity toward building instead of destroying? To a warring and enslaving humanity God gave a series of principles and teachings by which we might, through the use of free will, gradually nudge ourselves toward that peace. We can be as prodigal sons whose value in returning to relationship is so much greater for having once been astray and through the exercise of our free will, restoring it. Get out the fatted calf, folks, it’s time to party.
Wil Darcangelo is the Spiritual Coordinator at First Parish Church of Fitchburg and a MDiv/MAGIL candidate at Andover Newton Theological School. Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com