The 10 Commandments remain an important part of American culture as a moral guide and as the foundation of the U.S. legal system, ministers say.
The Revs. Charles Inman, Jared Secret and Greg Fleming and the Revs. Mark Russell and Russ Nebhut say the profundity and timelessness of the laws God gave to Moses on stone tablets are proofs of their divine source.
“My belief is that all scripture is inspired by God from Genesis 1 to the last verse of Revelation, so the 10 Commandments are still very much alive,” said the Rev. Inman, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Monahans. “Jesus summarized them into the two greatest commandments, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
“When you think about it, it was in them that we were given the concept of private ownership because the commandment not to steal implied that you could have something and own it for yourself.”
Noting that the commandments say to worship only God, honor one’s parents and keep the Sabbath while shunning idolatry, blasphemy, theft, dishonesty, coveting, murder and adultery, Inman said the prohibitions against murder and adultery, for example, assert the sanctity of life and marriage.
“The American culture has changed dramatically in the last 100 years,” he said. “As you go around other parts of the world, parents and grandparents are given great honor. We have a lot of challenges today because we have not honored our parents.”
The Rev. Secret, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Crane, said the commandments “are still a teachable lesson and worth studying because there is nothing contradictory to them throughout scripture or in the teachings of Jesus.”
“They give the view of the nature of God and what his expectations are,” Secret said. “I would hesitate ever to refer to any part of the Bible as not useful or helpful because it is all timelessly useful, but the 10 Commandments were superseded by the new covenant that is in effect today. We are saved by grace through faith and justified by Christ through grace.”
He said God gave additional laws after the Israelites broke the first covenant by building and worshipping the golden calf before Moses returned from Mount Sinai. “That covenant was abolished and shortly afterward restored through the whole Mosaic Law but not with the specific wording of the 10 Commandments anymore,” Secret said.
Fleming, minister of North A Church of Christ in Midland, said Jesus “called his disciples to a greater righteousness in which one not only does not kill but avoids anger.”
“Though Jesus inaugurates the new covenant or testament spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-16, he also states that his purpose is to fulfill, not abolish, the law and the prophets,” Fleming said. “He likewise teaches that the whole law of Moses can be summed up with the commands to love God and love your neighbor.”
“The command to love your neighbor as yourself is actually a summary of a related series of commands that begins in Leviticus 19:9, all of which name specific obligations owed to one’s neighbor. Some years ago, Luke T. Johnson, who teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, pointed out that each of these obligations found in Leviticus can also be found in the Book of James.
“In light of this, that book can be thought of in terms of being a meditation on what James terms ‘the royal law’ or ‘the law of the kingdom’ in James 2:8.”
The Rev. Russell, pastor of Christ’s Lutheran Church, said the commandment not to kill means “do not murder” because it is not a sin to kill in self-defense or for policemen and soldiers to kill in the line of duty.
“One of the most interesting things is the ways in which the different churches divvy up the 10 Commandments,” Russell said. “They’re not numbered the same among the denominations, which I find fascinating. Some are lumped together and some broken apart.
“They’re meant to be a guidepost to let us know what is pleasing to God and what is not pleasing. Martin Luther said we should fear and love God and live a pure and decent life so that each of us loves and honors his or her spouse. We should love and trust God above all things and love our neighbors as ourselves.”
The Rev. Nebhut, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, said Jesus elaborated on the command not to kill by saying that hating someone is the equivalent of murder. “People who say they are just the static laws of a long time ago forget that most of our societal laws are based on the 10 Commandments,” Nebhut said.
“They’re the foundation of our society’s moral code and the further we get away from them, the more chaos we have in society. From police officers and teachers all the way to the president, we have very little respect for those who are in authority.”
“We’re to honor others and honor the covenant of marriage, but the divorce rates are skyrocketing. There is no guilt or morality associated with stealing. Attitude comes before action, and every sin the commandments identify stems from selfishness.”