May 132013 20 Responses

Why We Don’t Need the Ten Commandments on the Wall

We don’t need the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall; we have the ability to write them on our hearts.

A few years ago I took a survey of our congregation.

By a response of applause, I asked how much they agreed with the following statements:

  • Our children should learn and live by the Ten Commandments (loud applause).
  • The Ten Commandments should be taught by churches (loud applause).
  • The Ten Commandments should be hung on the walls of public places including public schools (applause by everyone in the room but me).
  • I can personally name the Ten Commandments in order (I was the only one applauding).

The contrast was stunning. The point was clear.

It’s hypocritical to say the Ten Commandments are so vitally important that they should hang on the wall of every public building when they aren’t important enough for us to memorize them in our hearts.

For several decades, there has been an ongoing public battle regarding the placement of a Ten Commandments plaque in courtrooms, public buildings, and schools.

What has been taking place nationwide is currently a battle in my backyard. Students at a local high school are protesting the removal of a Ten Commandments plaque at their school. While the students are well-intended, I do not believe that putting a plaque on a wall is truly a “fight for faith.” The sign of a Christian is not what hangs on a wall, but what is placed in our heart.

The irony of the Ten Commandments fight is that if we aren’t careful, we can turn the plaque of the Commandments into a graven image which is worshiped over the one true God. We can ignore life transforming faith for the sake of an outward hypocrisy. We can exchange the gospel which says we can’t save ourselves for a religion which seeks salvation in outward appearances.

None of these are Biblical Christianity.

While I have a deep affection for how the Ten Commandments have influenced our country, I get nervous when the focus of our faith is about outward gestures and the placement of icons in prominent places.

If the Commandments are removed, has anything been lost? Will their removal strip them from the memory of Christians? Will it prevent Christians from being a living example of the Ten Commandments? Will it prevent conversation and discussion about them?

If the Commandments remain, has anything been gained? Do words on a wall transform a heart? Apart from God’s grace, can the Commandments give life?

Biblical Christianity is not about an outward sign, but an inward transformation. Whether the Commandments hang on the wall doesn’t matter since they have been written on our hearts.

I appreciate the desire of the local students who feel their faith is under attack. They live in a country where the freedom to exercise religion is in real danger. I don’t blame them for this fight. I just wish they would pick a different battle.

If these students belonged to the church I pastor, my encouragement to them would be:

  • memorize the Ten Commandments and find ways to live by them every day in school
  • love, in word and deed, those with whom you disagree
  • use the conversation to share the gospel with friends and relatives
  • pray for your nation, community, and neighbors
  • study with all diligence so you can love God with your whole mind
  • seek ways to express grace to every person in your community
  • allow the inward to transform the outward
  • try to help the powerless more than trying to change the powerful
  • be more concerned with people’s hearts than what is written on walls

Christianity is not an “outward first” religion. Signs and icons are not central to our faith.

The Ten Commandments written on a wall serve little purpose compared to the Commandments being lived through people whose hearts have been changed by God’s grace.

I appreciate the history of our country and the prominent placement the Commandments have received in many public buildings in the past. While I wish they weren’t being removed, it doesn’t greatly worry me about the direction of our country.

Our lives are not determined by what is written on our walls. It is determined by what is written on our hearts.

If we are worried about our children or the next generation, our challenge is not to get the Commandments displayed in prominent places. Our challenge is to learn them, live by them, and teach them to everyone person we know.


20 Responses to Why We Don’t Need the Ten Commandments on the Wall
  1. […] Notice that society doesn’t say religion is wrong; it says it’s irrelevant. A religious ...

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