The Ten Commandments are spiritual, though expected to be implemented by physical people. Nothing is wrong with those Laws, as inviting blessings when religiously obeyed. However, the flows of physical nature always cause failure to abide by them. The Israelites were never consistent in obeying God’s Laws.
How can one trust anyone, in the world of disappointment and confusion? Only Jesus bears no rival when checking for truthful information. The purpose of humanity is to attain spiritual freedom. Toiling in this world does not lead to freedom. The Judeo-Christian Bible carries workable information, from Genesis to Revelation. How can one be guided to obey those Laws?
Jesus delivered His ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ before He left this world, towards crucifixion. All believers have respective programs, to be accomplished before each leaves this planet: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”(John 17:17-19 NIV).
Sanctification implies setting apart for sacred usage. Jesus was praying for those abiding by His teachings, deriving from the authenticity of God’s word. Following Christ, implies applying what Jesus taught. There is no other stable datum, except God’s word, whose basis is in the Old Testament Scriptures.
The challenge, concerning understanding God’s word stems from an inability to separate between physical and Spiritual viewpoints. Looking at what is said from a physical perspective is different from spiritual understanding. The only reason for failure to understand Jesus is the inability to separate the two viewpoints.
The significance in understanding carries the reality of what Christianity implies. As a chosen nation, in their physical existence, the Israelites were expected to be guided by those Laws. This required abiding by the stipulated regulations, covering marriage, diet and many other precepts, regulating their social conducts.
The physical existence carries its own baggage, making it impossible to adopt what is applicable in the spiritual realm. However, the incongruity of the physical and spiritual principles is not necessarily dichotomous. The physical is weaker and controllable by the spirit. All physical aspects ought to be under spiritual dominion. In short, existing physically requires religious guidance.
The Israelite nation is a good example of living under religious guidance. The Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy carry dos and don’ts, as living conditions. Those Laws were summarized in the Ten Commandments. The Israelite nation was to be viewed as different from those in their surroundings.
Suggesting that the Israelites were blessed, when compared with other nations, is inaccurate. The Israelites benefitted immensely from God’s blessings, but they also received punishments, whenever departing from God’s Laws. The majority could not enjoy being under God’s Laws, except the dedicated few. The following passage, shows their propensity to always live like other nations:
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him:
“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you that they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them, but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”(1 Samuel 8:1-9 NIV).
Even though appearing as having enjoyed life under God’s protection, their condition of living was not always rosy. The statement: “now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have,” shows their having had a soft spot in other nations’ ideas. They had evidence of blessings from God, but they still could not resist the appetite for living ordinarily, like those in their surroundings.
They were victorious in wars against nations in their surroundings. They had no doubt in appreciating that their God was different and far too superior to the gods of other nations. But they still took comfort in practising the traditions of other nations. The physical nature feels good and more secure in a group mentality.
The Israelites’ story, up to the time of Jesus, was punctuated with ups and downs. They became blessed whenever obeying God’s Laws but receiving punishment; when departing from God’s Laws. Even at Jesus’s arrival, they had not departed from their problem of inconsistency in applying God’s Laws, as highlighted below:
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”(Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV).
The physical body is opposed to God’s Laws, even though God’s Laws guarantee happiness. The Israelites held recorded testimonies about such realities, but those testimonies could not last in their memories. Apparently, the physical body takes comfort in things that are harmful to survival.
In his physical nature, a human being wants survival. But, in their sinful nature, humans cannot resist death. The purpose of religion is to instil discipline. But religion leads to the artificial application of God’s Law. This creates a condition where the legal, but physical person, is unrelated to the significance of God’s Law.
They obeyed God’s Law, out of fear, but not identifying with God’s nature. Throughout their relationship with God, the Israelites sought to please God, rather than identify with God. There was no freedom in their endeavours to obey God.
Jesus contended with the Pharisees, whom He referred to as hypocrites. Indeed they were hypocrites, as they sought to please God, without identifying with what pleased God. They lacked freedom, brought by Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”(Luke 4:18-19 NIV).
The Israelites had not only been under human slavery, but they had also been under spiritual slavery. Obeying God’s Laws out of obligation puts a person under slavery. This is what makes religion an anathema to true worship.
This is the only reason why the Jews could not identify with Jesus. To them, freedom was associated with disobeying God. They missed the point that God’s Laws granted freedom. Those people had been blind to the realities of God’s Laws. In other words, they did not understand the significance of God’s laws.
They carried testimonies of blessings, resulting from keeping God’s Laws. They religiously idolized God’s Laws, but without identifying with those Laws. Their failure to identify with God’s Laws was that God’s Laws cannot identify with sinful nature. This was illustrated by Paul in the Book of Galatians:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want.”(Galatians 5:16-17 NIV).
There is nothing sinister or difficult about God’s Laws, except when finding comfort in sinful nature. Even the desire to religiously keep God’s Laws is an indication of the presence of sinful nature in a person. Out of a desire to avoid physical pain, resulting from sinning, sinful nature gets stuck. The spiritual person does not need to be reminded of the consequences of disobeying God’s Laws.
The physical person focuses on what benefits the self, while the spiritual person focuses on what benefits others. Hence, Paul says they are in conflict with each other. A religious person is a hypocrite because he seeks to keep the law, in order to benefit from the effects of keeping the Law.
Divisions in Christianity are caused by desiring to be blessed, more than desiring to be a blessing to others. In other words, the physical nature is self-centred, rather than altruistic. The spiritual nature is altruistic and sacrifices its own interests, like Jesus. Hence impossible to be self-centred.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other”(Galatians 5:14-15 NIV).
The freedom brought by Jesus enables a person to be truly himself. He does the right thing, not out of a desire to please God, or any other person. That person does the right thing, without considering whether anyone is pleased about it or not. Doing the right thing is his nature.
A Good example of this is revealed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:30-37). In that parable we see a character appearing as unconscious of the religious obligations. His behaviour was opposed to the behaviour of the Priest and the Levite, who sought to please God, having been bound by religious obligations.
Was there anything wrong with religious obligations—whose purpose was to serve humanity? If the answer was to serve humanity, in their sinful conditions, why was it not more obligatory for them to serve a victim of robbers on that street? A religious person focuses more on religious obligations, rather than service.
Religious leaders sought to condemn Jesus for healing on a Sabbath day. They did not have a passion for helping the sick in their deplorable plight. They failed to appreciate the purpose of God’s Laws, designed for loving neighbours as self. Therefore, the presumption that God’s Laws are done away with, is not different from the presumption that some aspects of legalism are desirable.
A spiritual person is above those arguments. Like Jesus, a spiritual person focuses on how other people benefit from his endeavours. He focuses on how other people could receive God’s love, regardless of their sinful background. That person’s mind is not different from Jesus’ mind.
God’s Laws require common sense, more than religion—or requiring to be too educated about the implementation of those Laws. Anyone spending time in theological colleges fails to apply common sense. Why should loving one’s neighbour as self, require a college degree? Let alone a Masters degree or a PhD?
No wonder why Jesus told one of the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains”(John 9:41 NIV). The Pharisees were too obsessed with God’s Laws, rather than appreciating the simplicity that the blind man had received his sight, at last.
They sought to denigrate Jesus for healing on Sabbath days, rather than glorify God for using Jesus to heal the sick. God’s Laws hang on a single Law of Loving the neighbour as self. This is what the learned Pharisee could not comprehend.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former”(Matthew 23:23 NIV).
A New Testament guru, going about telling people that God’s Laws are done away with is misplaced. Neither should there be an Old Testament expert, telling others that God’s Laws should be religiously kept. The answer is found in applying everything taught by Jesus before one is guaranteed to receive the Holy Spirit.
Having received the Holy Spirit, one automatically becomes God’s child, being identified as Christ’s brother. That person does not need anyone to superintend over him, about God’s Laws. Doing so is as foolish as attempting to teach Jesus. Nevertheless, the righteous, like the Good Samaritan, are the ones to be rewarded, at Christ’s second coming (Matthew 25:34-36). Christ brothers have already been rewarded, as now living with God and Christ (John 14:23).
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99