Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Eighth Commandment

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."

In my opinion, the best explanation of the Eighth Commandment is a children's book called Flying Feathers.  It's a Slav folk tale, retold by Mary Kentra Ericsson, and once upon a time published by Concordia Publishing House.  They should bring it back!  Until they do, I am happy to lend you mine.  Parents will learn just as much as children.  Confirmation students should read it too.

In the story, a girl named Nika overhears women gossiping about a neighborhood boy.  Later Nika spreads the gossip.  Nika's grandmother knows she does not understand the harm she has done.  So she sends Nika up a hill and tells her to release all the feathers from a pillow.  Then Nika is told to go back again and collect all the feathers.  She finds that gossip is like flying feathers - once loose they can't be gathered again.  She learns to pray for strength when she is tempted to gossip.

Flying Feathers - available from your pastor.  Because one of the things most certain to weaken a congregation is gossip.

Our job is to bear true witness about Christ and His love, and not to bear false witness against each other.

Let us teach this vital lesson to our children - and learn it ourselves.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Seventh Commandment

"You shall not steal."

Without planning it (but God had it planned), we come to the Seventh Commandment just before Christmas.  There is a definite connection between this commandment and Christmas.  What do you think it is?  What makes the Seventh Commandment the Christmas Commandment?

The answer in a word: giving.

Only on the surface is the Seventh Commandment about not stealing.  At its heart it's about giving - the opposite of stealing.  (In the same way, the Sixth Commandment is, on the surface, about not committing adultery.  Deeper down it's really about a loving marriage.)  And 'tis the season for giving!  The giving of gifts!

Christmas gift-giving (the perfect keeping of the Seventh Commandment) has its origin in God's gift of His beloved Son!  Christ is the First Christmas Present from which all others take their cue.

Why is it that we wrap our gifts?  Because Mary wrapped her son in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger (Luke 2:7).  And why do we lay them under a tree?  Because God's Gift would grow up to give Himself upon the tree of the cross.

The Father gives the Son.  The Son gives Himself.  The Father and Son give the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives faith, hope, and love.

And then that love gives us selfless, generous, and merciful hearts.  Eyes to see the need.  And ears to hear in the Seventh Commandment an invitation to give like God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Sixth Commandment

"You shall not commit adultery."

What does this mean?  We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

Setting aside the First Commandment, there is something unique about the Sixth Commandment's What does this mean?  That is, it leaves out what we mustn't do.  Every other What does this mean? (with the special exception of the First Commandment) begins by saying what we should not do - and then what we should.

But under the Sixth Commandment, which deals with sexual purity and marriage, Luther omits any reference to sexual sins, perhaps in the belief that it would be shameful even to mention them (Eph. 5:3, 12).  How refreshing in an age when we have forgotten how to blush (Jer. 6:15; 8:12)!

Luther focuses on the beautiful things: chastity, modesty, and a loving marriage.  This is what we should do too.

For a list of sins against the Sixth Commandment, one may consult the Explanation.  But to discover and meditate on the blessed essence of this commandment, and apply it to one's life, nothing more is needed than this:

We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Fifth Commandment

"You shall not murder."

"Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him" (Gen. 4:8).

These words record the first murder, and sadly not the last.  But have we, even as Christians, become desensitized to violence and even to murder?  We need to start there.

I once heard about a little boy who was told the story of Cain and Abel.  His reaction?  He began to cry.  His reaction was right because his heart was too.  "Turn and become like children," says Jesus.

We live in a violent, murderous world, because we live in a sinful, terribly fallen world.  God fought back by sending His Son into the world to give His life.  Christ, His love and forgiveness are the only hope for this world.

But what can WE do?  Pray for God to REsensitize our hearts to the preciousness of every human life.  After this, the Holy Spirit will show you many things you can do.  Let me give you three examples.

1. Vote for those whose positions are life-affirming (pro-life).  Encourage your friends to do the same.

2. Parents, shield your children from the violence they would otherwise see on the screen.  And do not let them play violent video games.  Violence is never a game.

3. Encourage and thank your pastor when he speaks about the sanctity of human life in all its stages.  Help your congregation to witness more actively.

Christians are called to lives of repentance, faith, and love.  Central to this life is to hold human life in the highest regard and even to revere it.