How to Love One Another

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As we continue our series in Exodus, we come this evening to the second half of what we call the Ten Commandments, picking up where we left off last week. We are in Exodus 20.12-21.

The first four commands are all about how we love God. That is verses 3-11. We looked at those last week. And the remaining six are about loving one another, beginning at verse 12. Love God. Love mankind.

Listen to these words of Jesus: And he said to him,

"You shall love the Lord your God 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 neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

As we saw last week, the Ten Commandments were not given as a way for people to enter into relationship with God. They were given to help us know how to live in response to God saving us and making us his people.

Exodus 20:2

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

God rescued his chosen people from slavery in Egypt – there were ten plagues, and the Passover sacrifice of a lamb, and the crossing of the Red Sea and through the desert until finally God brought them to Mount Sinai. There he established a covenant relationship with them, and gave them the law showing them how to live life his way. As his words created the world in Genesis so his words created his people at Mount Sinai. In grateful response to his grace, Israel would worship and serve their God, living as his people in accordance with his Law –summed up as: love God and love your neighbour.

This is how God wanted them to live. This is how they showed that they belonged to him. This is what life lived as freed slaves looks like. This is the life they were created and rescued for, set free by a loving God who showed them what was best for them.

In giving them his law, God reveals and explained to them his heart and his character. In time, Jesus would come to show us the father and reveal him most fully to us, and so it is no surprise that the life Jesus lived and the words he said tie in very closely to what God reveals about himself here. Jesus Christ shows us what it's like for the law to be kept perfectly.

We too, when we trust in Jesus and his rescue by his death for us on the cross, are freed from slavery to sin and death. We are adopted as God's children, and called to a life of holiness. The Christian life of holiness, lived in obedience to Christ, flows from the relationship we now have with the Son and the Father through the Holy Spirit. Loving God and loving our neighbour is what the new life into which we are brought by faith in Christ is all about.

We're going to spend the bulk of our time together this evening looking at those 6 commandments. We'll have to be brief. There are loads that could be said that I won't be able to cover but I hope that as we look at them again, we'll see something fresh, appreciate them and learn from them.

So, let's dive straight in with…

The Fifth Commandment

Look at verse 12:

"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."

When we are children, honouring our father and mother means obeying them. And then as adult, we should continue to serve, respect, love, and care for them all their lives – and work out what it looks like to do that whether we are single or married, whether they are Christians or not and whether they leave near us or further away.

As a child, Jesus submitted himself to Mary and Joseph. Luke 2:51 tells us he was obedient to them. And as an adult, Jesus honoured his mother and made plans for her to looked after even as he suffered on the cross.

This won't come naturally of course. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15). From my earliest days, led and driven by sin, I persistently attempt to rule myself. Nor is it always easy. For some of us our parents are no longer alive and we have a mixture of good and perhaps painful memories to deal with.

We please and obey God when we honour our father and mother. And notice the promise attached – that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. (as Paul in Ephesians 6:3 puts it). That promise is a reminder that this commandment is the basis for order and for good for the whole of society. Obeying parental authority is the beginning of respecting authority in general. If children don't learn to respect authority in the home, society will be chaotic. And so In the same vein, we are also to show respect for those who God as appointed in authority. We are to honour our teachers and pastors; we are to honour the government set over us. We are to honour the authority of our heavenly father

That obedience and submission do have limits, of course. All authority comes from God, who is the King of kings and we are to love, honour, and obey him rather than others if they command me to sin. Just like the Israelite midwives did when the King of Egypt told them to kill boys born to Israelites. And just as Peter and the other apostles said: "we must obey God rather than you" when ordered by the authorities not to speak of the name of Jesus. And in the same way, Jesus teaches that loyalty to him must come above loyalty to parents.

The Sixth Commandment

Look at verse 13:

"You shall not murder."

What does it mean not to murder? I am not to take the life of another – from the moment of conception to final breath, life God-given and therefore is sacred. God alone gives life and he alone takes it. You shall not murder.

Jesus shows us that this command extends to not harming others. We are not to kill others in our heart by hating them, or by harming them by our words or deeds. Jesus said:

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21-22)

We are to love God and our neighbour by not murdering but also by holding back selfish anger and insults, by defending the helpless and unborn, by rescuing those who damage themselves, and by helping others to prosper.

The Seventh Commandment

Look at verse 14:

"You shall not commit adultery."

Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman and it is holy. Those who are married are to be faithful to their spouses as long as they both shall live. Marriage reflects the faithful love that unites Christ to his Church.

So, we are not to engage in sexual activity with anyone other than my spouse. And I am to be faithful in my marriage - exclusively devoted in heart, mind, and body.

Strictly speaking, adultery requires at least of those involved to be married. But this shows us that in God's created order sex is reserved only for marriage. So as well as adultery in the strictest sense, sexual immorality also includes sexual intimacy, even if it is consensual between those not married. All sexual activity outside of marriage, as defined by God, violates his design for sexual intimacy and marriage. And listen to how Jesus expands on this command.

Jesus said,

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matthew 5:27-28)

Jesus shows us that this covers not just what I do sexually, but also what I think and how I treat others. I am to view others as those made in the image of God, not as objects to be used and abused for my own personal gratification. We are to be sexually pure and honour one another in body and in mind.

This isn't designed to rule out fun. God created sex and he created it for our good. Living God's way brings freedom and is good for us. It protects and values friendship, it avoids difficulty in marriage, and protects us from harm in this most precious and vulnerable aspect of who we are as human beings.

The Eighth Commandment

Look at verse 15:

"You shall not steal."

I must not take what does not belong to me. Most clearly in mind is property – things that belong to others. But the Bible also talks about an employer stealing from a worker the wages they are owed and of using 'unjust weights' and a lack of honesty in business dealings.

Theft also includes not returning something you've borrowed, lying on your tax or benefits application form, breaking copyrights on books or films or computer software, helping ourselves to supplies from our workplace.

If we have stolen, we should repay and, to the best of our ability, restore what we have taken – following the example of Zaccchaus in Luke 19.

And instead of stealing from others we are to give and not take. That means remembering that everything we own, including our gifts and abilities, is given to us by God. I am to use it for his glory while respecting what he has entrusted to others. Instead of taking, I am to give. That includes care for those who depend on me and giving to God's work and to the poor.

The Ninth Commandment

Look at verse 16:

"You shall bear false witness against your neighbour."

The language that is used here refers us to the situation in a court of law where you are involved as a witness. The commandment is clear – you should speak the truth. You are not to lie. It is simple - and does not give any exceptions or reasons why we would ever be right to speak falsely in such a legal situation. It rules out false accusations, lies, withholding evidence, or an unjust verdict. All violate truth and justice. So for an example, here is Exodus 23:1: "You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness."

Jesus suffered from false testimony. The Sanhedrin, who wanted to execute Jesus, hired witnesses to lie about him. Yet, Jesus always speaks the truth about himself and about me.

And those who follow him are also to be those who speak truthfully and graciously at all times – not just in court. We are to keep our tongues from lying, slander (spreading lies about someone), or gossip (spreading truth about someone with the aim of damaging them). We are to report crimes, advocate for the helpless, and protect the community.

The Tenth Commandment

Look at verse 17:

"You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour's."

You shall not covet. I am not to let envy make me want what others have, but in humility should be content with what I have.

This is all about the dangers of what lies in the hidden recesses of our heart. What begins with secret discontent in mind and heart – if left unchecked – leads to sins such as idolatry, adultery, and theft. Instead, we are to be content with what God has given us.

Hebrews 13:5

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have."

Jesus shows us what this looks like. He took on the form of a servant without wealth or possessions, and in his earthly life loved and trusted his Father in all things. He did not grasp. He gave up everything so that in him we would have every blessing and an inheritance as his adopted child. That is the truth we need to reflect on, that will keep our hearts content in him and free from coveting.

You shall not covet. Have you ever wished your life was different? Or wished that some else didn't have something because you don't have it, disliked them because they do, or grown bitter with God because he chooses to give a blessing to someone else and not to you? That's the challenge of the tenth commandment.

So, there we have it. Our title this evening was 'How to love one another'. I don't know what you expected. Perhaps not commandments. But this is what the Lord God says. This is how we are to love one another.

"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
"You shall not murder.
"You shall not commit adultery.
"You shall not steal.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
"You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour's."

That is how we are to live as God's people. We need to listen to these words from God so that we know how to love him and love one another.

These words come with God's authority. They are to be obeyed because he spoke them and they reflect the way he has created the world. Our relationship with God stands behind all of them, even the ones that seem to be about others.

Fathers and mothers are to be honoured because God is a father to his people and God is to be honoured. No murder because God alone gives life, and people are in God's image. No adultery because God made man male and female, that the two might be one flesh. No theft because God makes poor and rich. No false witness because God does not lie. No coveting because God alone is to satisfy, and in him alone are our desires met.

As we think about these commandments we need to remember that Jesus encouraged us to apply them to the maximum. Not to look for the legal minimum.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate that. When I was student, I lived in a house with five other people. This was way back in the day, before mobile phones. We had one phone for the house and the worst thing was answering the phone when you knew it would be for someone else. One of my housemates (she was a lawyer), one day her mum phoned. And she did not want to speak to her mum. So she said, 'tell my mum, I'm in the bath. And she ran to the bathroom and stood in the empty bath. Now of course technically if we had said 'sorry, she's in the bath' it would not have been a lie. But as God's people, we are not to look for the minimum application of these commandments but the maximum. We are to be people characterised by these things, characterised by truth and not just people who are 'technically' not lying.

But while sin still causes us to resist and ignore God's will, and to care more for myself than for my neighbour then we will not live like this perfectly.

But God is at work in us and one day that is how we will live - when he completes his work of grace in me at the end of the age.

1 John 3:2-3

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."

Until then, we will fail to keep these commands. One purpose of the Law is to show me my utter inability to obey God, to show me who I am in all the ugliness of sin and so to point to my need of a rescuer.

Jesus was that rescuer. As a human he lived the perfect life and so as an unblemished Lamb was able to offer himself to God, suffering death in our place on the cross. My sins are forgiven when I confess them – because he took them on himself and paid the penalty for sin. And instead, the perfect obedience of the son is now my record.

But we're not just forgiven. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who changes our mind, will, and desires so we want to obey our God. And by the Holy Spirit's help, we are progressively transformed and conformed to the character of Jesus Christ.

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