We didn’t end up with ten commandments in order to please God or win heaven. We need them because most of us are generally simply oblivious. We go for the pleasure right in front of us in that moment without stopping to think about the consequences for us and others down the road.
It’s not about being judged or labeled or punished, it’s about love. The basic ten are a gift from God because God loves us enough to try to help us not screw up our lives and others’ beyond repair. Even though God knows how blind we are and forgives us, when we make poor choices we eventually have to face and live with the crippling and often even heartbreaking consequences.
Life is not a test, a contest, or a game we play for prizes.
The rules are about relationships. The basic ten are about how to avoid killing relationships so they have a chance to grow. They are the minimum survival guidelines.
The goal is learning to love enough to have deep, lasting, nurturing, transforming joyous relationships.
The first relationship is with God for the simple reason that grace is unconditional love and God is pretty much the only place you can count on that no matter what stupid thing you do.
I’ve reached an age where I can look back and see the harm even mildly selfish choices have caused not only others, but myself. Because when we continue in a pattern of choosing immediate gratification as we become adults with responsibilities to and for others, it becomes an addiction with painful consequences for both ourselves and them.
Addiction to avoiding discomfort or pain plays out in extremely diverse ways, even in socially approved things that aren’t recognized as addictions. When our marriage relationship starts to take work or involves delayed gratification, some of us simply become workaholics. That way we avoid what makes us uncomfortable and feel virtuous while doing it. Most don’t recognize this as being an addiction, a pattern of escape with consequences similar to using alcohol, infidelity, or running away.
Take another look at the Big Ten. Take another look at your daily choices. Are they healthy for you and for your relationships? Are they about learning to truly love, whatever it takes? Or are they about running from the challenge to do the not always pleasurable daily nitty-gritty it takes to grow up and learn to love.
Hungers of the heart: to find a personal reason for being here, a purpose worth living for; hunger to shed our loneliness, to have honest relationships with one another; for a society that is more peaceable and fair; and a hunger to feel at home in a cosmos that we so briefly inhabit, a hunger that many people call God.
Regarding the words Spiritual and Religious, you might think of it this way: Spirituality is personal religion and religion is social spirituality. Both words refer to the human need to find our place in the overall scheme of things.
However, in virtually every field of human endeavor, new discoveries are praised. …In no other area of life is denial of progress held up as a virtue, except religion.
Carl Sagan was right: “Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
But often our skepticism doesn’t go deep enough, because both reason and science don’t go deep enough to satisfy the hungers of the human heart. And reason can be used to rationalize bad behavior and science can be used for destruction.
While rightly appalled by the evil done in the name of religion, do we picture a Jesus who would bash gays, cover up for priestly pedophiles, or beat the drums for a holy war?
Carl Sagan again: “Nearly every scientist has experienced in a moment of discovery or sudden understanding, a reverential astonishment.”
This sense of awe and wonder is the cornerstone of all authentic religion. But just as we have trouble describing or explaining the meaningfulness of music, art, love, beauty….so do we in explaining our trust in the meaningfulness of life, which is what faith means.
Religion or spirituality is a focused attitude of trust that moves us to an ethical lifestyle that becomes our thank you note for the gift of being here.