May 132013 19 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.


19 Responses to Why We Don’t Need the Ten Commandments on the Wall
  1. dennyneff Reply

    Thanks Kevin for redirecting my passions to their proper place if you know what I mean. I would ask only one thing, that you would put this the form of a letter to the editor of SWTR. I think more believers should read this.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Interesting challenge Denny. I’m not much of a letter to the editor guy. Of course with a few shares on Facebook, it will get more reads than it would in the paper.

      • SF Reply

        I’d disagree with that about the number of reads.

        And, seriously, your blog is one of my favorite things to read. Well done, as always.

        • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

          Thank you Scott. It doesn’t compare to the Dance Mom Chronicles, but I’m trying.

  2. RJ Reply

    Your points are terrific. I would add that episodes like this seem to point out that Christians today are not happy to be blessed as peacemakers, but are more interested in picking fights with the culture.

  3. Tamara Wright Reply

    You know, I really didn’t think about it this way. Thank you, I needed this.

  4. Todd Reply

    Furthermore I do not live under the covenant of law and death. That covenant was fulfilled in the life, death, burial, resurrection if Jesus the Christ, and acceptance of his blood on the mercy seat of which the church is one with. The las of love and forgiveness is only written in our hearts and minds. It’s far more reaching than the ten safety precautions used to protect man from the knowledge of good and evil.

  5. Josh Moore Reply

    I agree with your assessment and it is on target with what every pastor here in town is communicating with his congregation.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Josh, I have been very impressed with what I have read from the church leadership in Muldrow. Well done.

  6. deborahbraboy Reply

    I especially appreciate the encouraging words you offer for students including memorizing the ten commandments and living them out…you know me, I like the application!

  7. Rick tinder Reply

    Your a smart guy Kevin and a good decent human being however I disagree, I believe there is a movement in this country to destroy everything good. We grew up with those simple guidelines on the wall . One child which was a pawn in the overall scheme was granted his wishes but the wants of hundreds of kids was disregarded. It’s just principal . Anyway that just my opinion. Nice blog first visit I.ll be back.

  8. Tessa Reply

    What does it mean when the commandments are written on our hearts? And does it mean more than just the 10 Commandments?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Tessa, in the simplest form it probably means knowing the true meaning of the Ten Commandments and responding to God’s grace by allowing them to rule our lives. Beyond that, God’s law is now written on our hearts through the presence of the Holy Spirit reminding us of the teaching of Jesus. Consider Matthew 7.12.

  9. Edwin Reply

    You are be right about living ‘the ten commandments in our hearts and lives’, and actually knowing them. But you miss the point about placing them on the walls in our buildings and homes, for most of us it serves as a reminder in these busy and trouble times, as a jolt to bring us back lest we forget why we are here and how we ought to live. You say God’s law is now written in our hearts, so we really don’t need our bibles too, right?

  10. VM Reply

    That was absolutely a great and “thought-provoking” article. I plan to extrapolate the essence of the message and weave the principles within my lessons as I teach to my students at school.

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