SPIRITUAL MATTERS: God’s top ten includes rest

This summer at Calvary Lutheran we have been focusing on “God’s Top Ten” list – the 10 Commandments and how they are so very relevant to our lives today.
All too often I find that we tend to approach “God’s Top Ten” either too casually (more like ten nice suggestions for a good life) or too legalistically (as if God were out to get us and threatens to stop loving us if we break the rules). Both of these approaches miss the main point that the 10 Commandments are given by a loving God, to people he cares deeply about, so that life can be lived fully as God intends.
Since God already loves us more than we can possibly imagine, the 10 Commandments are not a way to gain God’s favor, but instead describe how God’s people live in light of his amazing grace.
The great moviemaker, Cecil B. DeMille, once said, “We cannot break the 10 Commandments, we can only break ourselves against them.”
How true this is in my life. When I live according to God’s plan and purpose, including honoring the 10 Commandments, my life simply works better and is filled with more deep joy.
Not that everything magically goes my way or I suddenly have no problems, but in abiding by the 10 Commandments, I know I experience more hope, joy, peace and love. And when I don’t, I am almost certainly hurting myself, as well as those around me, near and far.
For me, the 10 Commandments are much like God’s way of saying to us, “Don’t play in traffic – it’s dangerous and you’ll get hurt out there and I love you too much to see that happen.” God is not a cosmic killjoy, but as a loving parent who wants the best for us.
While the 10 Commandments can be naturally divided into two sections, the first few dealing with our relationship with God and the latter ones about how to get along with others, they are all important and none are optional.
In this way God places such things as putting him first in our life and keeping a Sabbath day, right alongside the prohibitions against murder, adultery, lying and stealing.
All of this causes me to reflect on my life and my priorities.
I find it challenging for example, that to God it is just as important for me to set aside time for rest and worship, as it is to not murder the people around me.
We would probably not usually place these things side by side, but God does, and here is the awesome wisdom of God shining through these ancient words.
For I trust that God knows me best, and knows that on a very deep level both Sabbath keeping and murder have to do with life – protecting it and keeping it whole.
Or to put it another way, they both have something to do with killing. While this is obvious in the case of murder, in our busy, fast-paced world that values people mostly for what they produce, this may not be so obvious with Sabbath keeping, which can seem like unproductive time.
Yet when we fail to take time for rest, rejuvenation and refocusing on God, we really do diminish our lives, “killing” ourselves little by little, and we in turn are much more likely to hurt those around us too.
Even God, after making the world and all that is in it, set aside a day for his own rest and to delight in all that he had made. If we fail to do the same, we seem to presume that we can get by without something that even God chose not to go without.
It is my hope for you that in remaining days of summer and into the fall, you are able to take some Sabbath time, not just because God says so, but because it is what is best for us.
Remember, “We cannot break the 10 Commandments, we can only break ourselves against them.”
The Rev. Jonathan Heierman is Senior Pastor of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church

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