In Sunday School last week we were discussing idols and how we can feel (wrongly) righteous by telling ourselves that these days we’re too smart to worship statues or bushes or bulls. We forget that we simply have a different set of things we worship, maybe our expensive cars, our beautiful houses, our loved ones or our bank account. This is worshiping things that are created instead of the Creator.
A book I just started reading puts it a different, and I think an even better way:
“The first of the Ten Commandments, ‘You shall have not other gods but me,’ designates that there is a power and purpose that gives life. The worship of other gods separates us from what alone gives life. For the Israelites other gods were most often nature gods, local or otherwise, that were believed to have power to insure fertility, prosperity and security. For us, these gods are less likely to be personalized but named impersonally as sex, money and power.
The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety by Timothy F. Sedgwick
What popped out for me is that we’re not even worshipping different idols, we’re worshipping the same old ones, under different names! Just like our ancient forbears, we want to feel safe and loved and respected, but we are looking in all the wrong places. Our only hope for those things is in God. He always loves, always provides. He gives true meaning to our lives. Our relationship with Him must come first if we hope to lead a pious life. Of course that leads to my YBH question (yes, but how). How do we learn to put God first when so many other people and things capture our thoughts, dreams and imaginations? That’s a topic for another post.
I’ve mentioned before that although I am not in a 12 step program, I greatly admire and think everyone could learn from them. Recently I was looking at the steps, and I realized that like the Ten Commandments, they are all about having a right relationship with God and with others. Here they are:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable. (Note: substitute here sin in general and we all have this problem)
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (In other words, God is God, and we’re not.)
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (Giving God His rightful place in our lives, being in right relationship with Him)
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (Christians call this an examination of conscience)
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. (This would be confession)
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. (Now we are getting to our relationships with others)
- Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God (keeping our relationship strong) praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message(read Good News) to alcoholics (read sinners) and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The 12 step programs succeed because they teach the importance of putting our relationships in order. First must come our relationship with God. We must accept that God and His will must take first place in our lives. Then we must confess our sins against Him and against our fellow humans and take responsibility to correct things. Finally, we must acknowledge that this is no quick or one-time fix … we must be constantly vigilant and work at our relationships continually AND we must help others by passing along what we have learned.
It’s humbling and also enlightening to read through these steps. As Christians, we all admit we’re sinners, but are we willing to admit that we are POWERLESS over sin without God? (We really don’t like to think of ourselves this way) Are we ready and willing to ask God to REMOVE our shortcomings? (I think there are lots of sins we like to hold on to). We may confess every week in church, but do we honestly make efforts to MAKE AMENDS to the people we’ve injured? (Personally, I’d rather try to ignore my bad behavior and hope everyone will eventually forget it) Do we really try to CHANGE AND IMPROVE our relationships with God and others? (Or are we too lazy to make that effort). Do we CARE enough about other people to pass the gospel on to them? (If we really believe in it, we should).
This gives me a lot to think about. How about you?
I remember when our daughters were little, my husband used to tell them, “people are more important than things.” This lesson usually came about as a way to explain why we need to share with others, behave courteously, keep our promises, etc… Guess what, when you look at the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, our Heavenly Father teaches this, too.
For example, the Ten Commandments are all about relationships. The first group of commandments tell us what our relationship with God should be like:
- Don’t put other Gods before the true God
- Don’t make or worship idols (in case you think this doesn’t apply in modern times think about how we can idolize our possessions, our public standing, our money or even our family).
- Don’t take God’s name in vain
- Keep the Sabbath appropriately
Basically respect God and give Him the proper place in your life.
Then we come to the question of how we must treat other people:
- Honor your parents
- Don’t commit murder
- Don’t commit adultery
- Don’t steal
- Don’t tell lies about your neighbor (and remember, everyone is your neighbor)
- Don’t envy and desire what rightfully belongs to another
In other words, we are not to harm others, even with words or thoughts. We are to respect and honor relationships with our parents, spouse, and everyone else who comes into our life.
In the New Testament, Jesus reinforces the Commandments and takes them a step further when He says:
“You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and all the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
According to Jesus we are not only to respect God and people. We are not only to do no harm. We are to love them. It all comes back to relationships, and it all comes back to love.
Since I didn’t get any suggestions for an August theme, I decided to continue with another aspect of the unity theme: relationships. If we go back to the beginning of humankind, in the book of Genesis, we see that God created us to be in relationship with Him and with each other. These relationships were to be true unions meant to foster wholeness and health. When sin entered the world, all this changed. Adam becomes fearful of God and tries to avoid Him; He and Eve blame each other for the unfortunate state of affairs created by their misdeeds. Instead of wholeness, we find brokenness; instead of health, disease and death.
The Bible is a book about relationships: God and His people, men and wives, siblings, parents and children, teachers and students, kings and subjects. Feel free, ladies to explore all of them! How are your relationships going? What helps keep relationships strong? What hinders or hurts relationships? Can broken relationships be restored?
There are an unlimited number of ideas to discuss, and everyone is also free to go “off topic” as the Spirit leads. Happy blogging!