Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.
Here in these first verses of the well-known ten commandments, God reminds his people who He is and what He has done for them. What has He done? He has rescued them from a foreign land and from their identity as slaves. And in the following verses, he invites them to a new “land” defined by God’s character, and to a new identity as God’s beloved.
- How would you describe the ten commandments as a whole?
- How would you say the ten commandments shape your identity? What else or who else shapes your identity?
- What or who are you tempted to put before God in your life?
Gracious God, we come as your people, named and loved by you. We confess that in the day-to-day demands and distractions, we forget that all we are is sourced in you and we run off to find our sense of identity and security outside of your presence. Draw us back in your love and mercy and show us those places where we have other allegiances before you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This passage can stir up a mixed bag of emotions and questions about God – what does it mean that he is jealous? How does he punish children and why? How does he show his love to the multiple generations of those who follow Him. How does this reflect the character of God? All these questions are stirred up and can cause us to miss His invitation to avoid putting anything or anyone between us and his presence in our lives. Perhaps the consequences are descriptive rather than prescriptive, as God desires His best for us and for our families.
- What questions are stirred up for you in this passage?
- Where have you seen yourself erect a barrier between you and God’s presence?
- What does it look like to remove the barrier? What is at stake for you to set it aside?
Gracious God, there are so many people and things that we can place between ourselves and you, blocking our access to you as our Lord and Shepherd. We confess our tendency to look for sad substitutes for your glory, lovingkindness, and goodness. Forgive us and search our hearts that we might clean out our idols. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
The commandment that Jesus gives us is simple but not easy, and it takes a lifetime to live into it. Laying down our lives for others is a daily choice as living sacrifices. Living that kind of life gives us insight to understand what God is doing in, through, and among us, and how we are participants in the works of love.
- Are there other commandments that you want to add to this that may distract you from loving?
- Who are you laying down your life for these days? What does that look like?
- What is it like for you to see what God is doing in the world, through the lens of love?
Gracious Jesus, you are inviting us to the difficult simplicity of loving others. ou laid down your life out of that same love that animates our love for others. Help us to love sacrificially and as we do, give us eyes to see the work you are doing and the willingness and desire to participate with you. In Your name, Amen.
16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. 18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.
Jesus reminds his followers that he has chosen them and appointed them to bear fruit. He warns them that it will not be easy, just as it was not easy for him but encourages them to live as those who belong, not to the world, but to God. We are invited to keep our eyes on Jesus, rather than the resistance that we may feel around us.
- Why is it important for us to remember that we are chosen and appointed by Jesus, and not the other way around?
- When have you felt at odds with or hated by the world? What comes to mind when you think of “the world?”
- How is your life reflecting love for others?
Gracious Jesus, thank you for reminding us that we belong to you and not to the world, and that the resistance we feel is a reflection of our separation from the world. Help us to focus on following you and loving one another as we entrust our lives and hearts to you. In Your name, Amen.
20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
When we are following wholeheartedly after Jesus, people will respond to us as they would to him. No doubt the disciples remembered his words as their ministry received mixed reviews. With them, we are invited to be faithful to Jesus, to love our enemies, and to entrust our lives and the lives of others into his hands.
- Where do you feel resistance in your circle of influence?
- How do you remain faithful to Jesus’ mandate to love one another and to love our enemies?
- What is challenging about applying this to your life right now?
Gracious Lord, we are not greater than you, but are your servants and agents of your kingdom. Help us to live wholeheartedly for you, knowing that you invite others through us to follow you, and their response to the invitation is directed to you, not us. Help us to love all who come into our lives, those who accept you and those who reject you. In Your name, Amen.