In the always excellent Godspace Blog on March 5, Lily Lewin wrote about what Rev. Earl Palmer, a well-known Presbyterian pastor that once served in Seattle, called The Grand Positives. It is a different way of viewing the Ten Commandments. As Lily notes, “Some [people] have been slammed or even shamed by the ‘Shalt Nots.’” An alternative is to look at the Ten Commandments as The Grand Positives, a view which invites us to interpret the Ten Commandments as positive statements rather than “shalt not” statements. I am intrigued by this challenge and wanted to give it a try.
But first, let me offer a disclaimer to anyone who might be put off by me seeming to put my words in God’s mouth or what might seem like reinventing God according to my wishes. I am well aware of that risk. But, I consider what I am trying to do as traditional biblical interpretation. Reading a passage and interpreting it from a different point of view. I apologize if anyone takes offense, certainly none is intended. This is but one way of describing what I think God might be saying to us in the Ten Commandments, but doing so in the form of positive statements. I would encourage you to perhaps try this for yourself. This might be a good journaling practice for Holy Week.
God says to us:
#1 – I am God, Holy God. You are my chosen and beloved, my creation. I have always been FOR YOU. My greatest desire is a relationship with you and all my creation. I love you with a steadfast love, always have, always will.
#2 –Many things will compete for your worship. Your possessions, work, relationships, money, sex, and power. But none of these will love you with a steadfast love. They will take and take and take. I will give and give and give. Accept my invitation to worship. Come and abide with me and I will abide with you. I love you with a steadfast love.
#3 – Ours is a relationship of love. Speak well of me and use my name in love. I gave you your name, and have written your name on the palm of my hand. Will you do the same for me? I love you with a steadfast love.
#4 – Spending time together is the best way for you to know the gift of my love. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend a day together each week? We could call it Sabbath. It would be a day to simply rest, to be together, to rejoice in each other, to abide in my steadfast love. Let’s do it!
#5 – While our relationship is most important, your relationship with others is next most important. Remember, love God, and love your neighbor. Loving others will bring you much peace in life. Your closest neighbors are your family; your parents, siblings, children. As you love and honor them, you will find peace. I love you with a steadfast love. Can you love others in my love?
#6 – Life is precious, oh so precious. Protect life. Preserve life. Cherish life. Do all you can to enrich life for others. That is loving with a steadfast love.
#7 – Relationships depend on integrity and faithfulness. Be faithful in all your relationships. Be a person of integrity. I love you so much, I will always be steadfast and faithful in my love for you. Be the same in your relationships with others.
#8 – Use things and love people. It is important not to get those two reversed. I will provide all the things you need. You will find peace and joy if you are content with those things. If others have more, rejoice with them. If others have less, share with them. You have all of my love, a never-ending spring welling up into abundant life. Be satisfied with what you have, it is enough. You are enough.
#9 – Remember that idea about integrity and faithfulness? Let it extend to your words as well. Be honest, truthful, see the best in others, regard what they do in the best light. You really will find more happiness in life if you do this. While I know you inside and out, I always view you through my lens of love. Could you do this with others?
#10 – One of my followers named Paul wrote that, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious…” True love is not jealous. This applies to material things as we spoke of above, but it also applies to the relationships that others enjoy. Being envious of others in any way will never bring you peace or joy or love. Peace, joy, and love are the things I wish for you and give to you. When (not if) you find yourself tempted to jealously, remember the deep, joyous, all-sufficient relationship that you and I share and find peace. I have always loved you. I will always love you. My love for you is steadfast.
Wow, I found that exercise to be a really holy experience. I encourage you to try it for yourself.