would a Christian object to posting the Ten Commandments in public
he were alive today, the loudest voice protesting the idea of placing
the Ten Commandments on public buildings would probably be St. Paul.
Paul was the most prominent early apostle for the spread of Christianity.
Some of his saved letters comprise a major portion of the Christian
New Testament. For Paul, his experience of freedom through Christ
was freedom from the law, including the Ten Commandments.
how Paul sees it. He was a follower of the Commandments—not
just the Ten, but also all of the commandments of scripture and
tradition. And he did that as well as it could be done. He was "zealous"
for the law. What did he get from that effort? Nothing but anxiety.
You might call it a form of performance anxiety. Am I doing okay?
Am I not coveting my neighbor? Am I completely truthful, not bearing
false witness? He never experienced a sense of relief and acceptance
from God for all his efforts, but rather doubt and anxiety. Am I
being good enough?
felt isolated from others as well. After all, other people might
become the cause of his failure in some way. He needed to be separated
from them or even opposed to them to follow the law. Other people
are likely to compromise your need to maintain purity and obedience
to the law. What if they are impure? What if they tempt you to covetousness
or another of the many ways to break the law?
of that legalistic work was death to him. It is his definition of
sin. For Paul, the life of sin is precisely the life-project of
trying to make yourself good. It only brings anxiety and judgment.
brought Paul freedom from that death? He realized that he needed
to do nothing to be completely loved, accepted and free before God.
freed him from all of that. Through Christ he realized that he need
do nothing to be completely loved, accepted and free before God.
God already loved him and accepted him. That status is God's free
gift to all. "By grace we are saved." All Paul needed
to do was to accept the gift. That's faith. "By grace we are
saved through faith." Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.
That's what he learned from Christ. It was his freedom from the
the Ten Commandments was to Paul the ministry of death. Christ is
our freedom from its prison.
Paul would be horrified at Christians demanding the placement of
the Ten Commandments in courtrooms. To him it would
be like erecting a monument to death, "for the letter kills,
but the Spirit gives life."
Paul, the good life and ethical behavior spring from the confidence
and freedom one experiences from knowing that you are loved and
accepted. Out of that firm foundation comes freedom, peace and joy.
Freed from trying to live up to external laws and rules, you can
spontaneously respond to the need of your neighbor. You can love
for the sake of the other, not just so you'll seem to be good.
like that produces something new. He called it the fruit of the
Spirit—"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, discipline." Against that, says Paul,
there is no law. Those are the qualities that emerge naturally when
we let ourselves be loved and accepted by God.
that light, the Ten Commandments and other traditions of wisdom
become guidelines for action, not a criterion for salvation or damnation.
For Paul, laws can be descriptive of right action but never prescriptive.
Motivation comes from a relationship of grace, not an objective
law. When you've been given everything you need, you are free from
needing to covet your neighbor.
life truly began when he realized that we are all accepted by God
before we have done anything to earn it. Therefore we can be bold
and confident rather than anxious and self-absorbed. God loves us,
so we are free. And that freedom allows us to respond spontaneously
with love toward our neighbor. That's Good News according
Rev. Lowell Grisham
(much of this response was first published in the
Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, Arkansas)