Last week we went “back to basics” by considering what we often call “the first table of the law,” that is, the first three commandments which deal with our “vertical” relationship with God. This week, we consider “the second table of the law,” the remaining seven commandments which deal with our “horizontal” relationship to our neighbor, to each other.
A number of years ago there was a best-seller entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.
Fulghum provoked smiles and nods of agreement with some of the basic, common-sense things he learned in Kindergarten such as:
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
We sense the same thing when it comes to the Ten Commandments.
They are pretty basic: Don’t worship any god other than the one, true, triune God. Don’t misuse His name. Don’t despise God’s word and worship. Honor your parents. Don’t take the life He has given. Be sexually pure and guard your marriage. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. Don’t ruin your neighbor’s good name. Don’t covet what God has seen fit to give others.
The basics are not complicated. But neither are they easy. This is why they are so routinely disobeyed, and why people want to substitute their own pious posturing for the plain commands of God.
It is also basic that the commandments cannot save us. Merely preaching the law, without the saving Christ, only creates proud Pharisees who imagine they have kept the commandments, or sad souls who utterly despair. The commandments can only show us how badly we need Christ who has kept the commandments for us, who has suffered in our stead the penalty for breaking them, whose undeserved love re-creates our hearts to beat as one with His, hearts which now smile and nod in agreement with God’s basics.