This Commandment Is Easily Understood, But Not Easily Kept

“The commandments associated with how we are to love our neighbor continue here. They are very clear and very understandable. This does not mean that they are easily kept, honored, or obeyed. They, like the other commandments, come to us in the negative formulation, “Thou shalt not…” But as we come to see their wisdom in terms of love, we see that in loving one another as Christ loved us, there would no longer be desires to kill, to commit adultery, to steal, or to lie and bear false witness against our neighbors.

Many throughout history, and in our own time, refuse to hear these commandments because they refuse to bow to any authority but that of their own will. In Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he has the fairy, Puck, comment on the folly of the human beings who have come into his forest saying, “What fools these mortals be.” And so it is with us as sinners. We often act like fools when in our arrogance, or in our ignorance, we defy the common sense of these commandments. We fail to see that they are universal prescriptions for the art, the gift, of living a good life. That in living in accord with the universal wisdom of the Commandments, the world would be a more just and peaceful reality for all of us. When we sin, we deny the infinite and sacred dignity that we and all other human beings are made in. The great irony is that we are never free of the consequences of our words and deeds. We forget the universal truth that: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17)

To kill is to deny the infinite dignity and worth of another human being. It is a defiant denial of the Creator of all life. It is to take the prerogative of the divine into one’s own finite, fallen and flawed hands. It is an ultimate arrogance. It denies the sacredness of creation, especially his creation of our humanity in his own image and likeness. It is a refusal to take our God-given responsibility to be our brother and sister’s keepers. To commit adultery is to allow one’s nerve endings, one’s sensual desires, to rule over one’s reason and wisdom. It is to fall from one’s own infinite dignity, and to cheapen the infinite dignity of the other, in order to appease one’s selfish demands for immediate gratification. It dishonors the one who is being cheated on, the one with whom one is committing the adultery, and one’s self. It is to make one’s own mortal flesh and fleeting desires more important than God’s infinite love for oneself and for the other.

To steal, to unjustly take another’s goods, is also an act of selfishness. The Seventh Commandment forbids our taking or keeping another’s goods. It also demands that we be just in how we care for and treat the fruits of one another’s labor. It demands that we ought to strive to order the world’s goods to God first, and grow in our love and respect for others and for their private property. The Eighth Commandment enjoins us to live in truth, to never distort or manipulate reality (truth) in any way, in order to satisfy our own selfish intentions. As Christians we are to bear witness to the truth in all circumstances, but especially the truth of God. We are not to be afraid of testifying to our Lord, especially in situations that require witness to the faith. We must profess it without any equivocation, even if it requires us to suffer, or to die for the faith. The lie, perjury, gossip, all of these do damage to the other. We are, rather, to honor the integrity of the other by honoring the truth in every situation.

Lord, help us to see the wisdom of obeying your commandments. Give us the strength of both faith and character so that we may always do our best to honor all life, to respect each other’s person in body and soul, to respect the private property of others, and to always bear witness to the truth with our words and our deeds. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!”

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.