Ordering Life on Earth
The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, August 18, 2019
Ordering Life on Earth
animal kingdom in the wild is not regulated by rules or laws of any
kind, except that each species has peculiar behavior. Among lions,
for example, it’s the females that hunt for food. The males do not
hunt, although from time to time they might help the females when the
target animal is too big for the females. However, even if the male
doesn’t participate in the hunt, when the females succeed in a
hunt, it is the male to eat first. He comes in by force and chases
away the females who fetched the food. The females move away to a
safe distance and wait for the male to satiate his hunger, and then
come and settle for whatever leftovers there are. If the animal was
small, there perhaps would be nothing left for the females. That’s
acceptable behavior in the lion world.
And there’s more. When a male reaches three years old, it is chased away from the pride to fend for itself. It roams the land, which is a precarious thing to do because if that lion is found trespassing by the male whose territory it is in, there will be a fight to the finish. Either it wins and takes over the pride and the territory, or it runs away and continues wandering, or it gets killed. When a male lion takes over a pride, it kills all the babies, if any, of the previous male of the pride. It wants to sire its own bloodline intact.
This kind of living is called jungle rule, survivor for the fittest, meaning that the strong survive and the weak die.
In history, human beings have also lived more or less like this. There was a time on planet earth when the king was the law. His subjects had to bow to his whims. He could do whatever he wanted. It was not until the Babylonian King Hammurabi produced a set of laws by which his empire would be ruled that humanity came to wake to the idea that the behavior of the king and of citizens could be regulated by laws known to all. King Hammurabi bound himself and the people he ruled to 272 statutes in what came to be known as the Code of Hammurabi. It is reported that King Hammurabi inscribed his statutes on a pillar more than fourteen feet tall for the public to see. From then on, the king would not arbitrarily kill people or do whatever he fancied. He was bound by the Code of Hammurabi.
But as years went by, kings of subsequent empires set aside the Code of Hammurabi and returned to the former ways of kings, arbitrarily taking matters into their own hands in disregard of all decency. For example, in the uprising led by Spartacus in Rome, 73 – 71 BC, Spartacus and his accomplices were captured and crucified forming a line of crosses stretching 240 miles. In 53 BC when Marcus Licinius Crassus was defeated fighting the Parthians in the battle of Carrhae, molten gold was poured down his throat to kill him. When Jesus was still a young boy, Judas of Gamala led an uprising against the Romans in 6 AD. He was captured, stripped naked in public view, intentionally, was forced on his knees, and then two soldiers took turns to strike him with whips tipped with balls made of lead. The whole spectacle was set up to send a no-nonsense message to the Jews that rebellion against the mighty Romans was a bad idea with painful consequences. The story goes on and on of kings and rulers and governments ruling citizens by whim, with impunity, even in modern times. These are human beings treating fellow human beings as trash, the brutality of a degree unthinkable.
God never intended life on earth to be like this among human beings, His image bearers. Way back, long after the Code of Hammurabi, God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people and to the entire world, through Moses, to regulate human life. They are called the Decalogue, or the ten words, ten sayings, ten utterances. These were not promulgated by some strongman on earth but by God Himself, and are therefore non-negotiable for all time. They are the following:
1. You shall have no other gods but Me.
2. You shall not make idols.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.
The word “commandments” is an unfortunate rendering of the “Decalogue.” They are not commandments in the sense that they are to be obeyed with possible punishment if one doesn’t. Rather, they are principles to be gladly embraced and inculcated in our human fabric so that they become second nature to us, the bedrock of our relationship with God and with others. Living by them is what defines a human being as God intended him/her to be. They are not designed to produce in us the so-called well-ordered life, as opposed to the riffraff of society. They are the foundation of the God-life in a human being. They are meant to become to us the default mode.
The Anglican Catechism divides them into two parts: our duty towards God and our duty towards our neighbor.
My duty towards God:
• To believe in him, to fear him, and to love him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength, in other words, with my entire being;
• To worship him, to give him thanks, to put my whole trust in him and to put nothing in his place, to pray to him, to honor his holy Name and his Word;
• To set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of his ways through his Word;
• To serve him truly all the days of my life.
My duty towards my neighbor:
• To love them as I love myself, and to do to all people as I wish them to do to me;
• To love, honor, and help my father and mother;
• To submit myself to the civil authority in all things lawful, and to teachers, spiritual pastors, and ministers in all things biblical;
• To carry myself in a humble and reverent fashion and shun arrogance and pomposity;
• To bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in my heart towards anyone, and therefore to hurt no one by word or deed;
• To be honest and fair in all my dealings;
• To keep my hands from picking and taking that which is not mine, and my mouth from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering others;
• To resist temptations to envy, greed, jealousy, and sexual impropriety;
• Not to covet nor desire other people’s possessions, but to learn to work hard with my own hands to earn my own living;
• And to do my duty in that state of life in which God will be pleased to place me.
Dear souls redeemed of the Fall, let us actively implant and ingrain these Ten Sayings deep in ourselves so that they come to define us, and so that we morph into the kind of human beings that God had in mind at creation. Love the Ten Words. Teach them to yourself regularly and constantly, and spread them to your children, and live them out daily, everywhere, in every situation. Let the light of our God be spread by us His people.