The Best Way To Live
There is a popular opinion today that perceives Christianity as a religion of restraint. For many, the objection to becoming a Christian has to do with the restrictions placed on their freedom to live their "best life now." Christianity obstructs this kind of life by being a religion of “don’t”. Don’t party. Don’t act like certain people. Don’t live a certain way. Don’t go to certain places. Don’t this and don’t that. In sum, outsiders to Christianity feel like the storm cloud on their sunny day, the proverbial “no” to their every “yes.”
To their credit, God summed up the distinctives of His covenant community in the negative through the Ten Commandments (“Do not have other gods before me; do not take the Lord’s name in vain; do not steal; do not murder; do not lie; do not covet; etc.). Are we to understand God’s revealed will for His people as being a series of supremely restrictive kill-joy’s?
At this point, it is instructive to learn how Jesus understood and interpreted what God meant in giving His people the Ten Commandments. When the Pharisees and Saducees conspired together to test Jesus, a lawyer, supposedly well-versed in God’s law, asked Jesus which one is the great commandment. Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV). The response Jesus provided to these religious leaders is confirmed elsewhere in the Gospel accounts, including a separate encounter with another lawyer in Luke 10:25-37.
For Jesus, the Ten Commandments were not a restrictive list of don’ts. It was a prescription of the best way to love God and to love one another. The first four commands relate to how we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the last six commands relate to how we love our neighbors as yourselves. Together, they lend a promise of the kind of shalom our world longs for but cannot have apart from a covenant relationship with the God who loves us so well.
Understood correctly, the Ten Commandments are God’s way of showing us the best way to live as well as the best way to love. While the Law can never justify a man before God, this does not mean that the Law is evil. In fact, Geerhardus Vos explained that God gave the Law, in part, for man to live a life of sanctified joy. He did so by appealing to Jesus' statement that "man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man." The Sabbath was to be a benefit to man. Jesus said His people are called to live a loving life, and that loving life is manifested in the way we keep His commandments. As the Apostle John states, “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it” (2 John 1:6, ESV). God is not restricting us by giving us His commandments, He is leading us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He is leading us by still waters. He is restoring our soul. He is being our Shepherd, and because we discover His goodness and mercy under His rule, we should not and do not want any other life.
In God’s kindness, not only has He shown us what pleases Him, He has shown us the path of life where there is fullness of joy. There is no joy in murder, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting. There is no life in idols and bowing down to false gods our world puts before us. The world is passing away, and the lusts thereof, but the one who does the will of God (obey His commandments) lives forever (1 John 2:17).
Ironically, the very “don’ts” that unbelievers present as objects to their freedom and pleasure in the world hold out the true and greater freedom and pleasure found in knowing God and doing His will. God is not against your freedom. He is for it enough to purchase it at the cost of His own beloved Son. God is not against your pleasure. He is for it enough to place the curse of sin on the only person with whom He has ever been well-pleased so that we might know the pleasure of salvation and the riches of His loving acceptance.
Jesus said that the world will know we are His disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:34-35). The world will see this love in a covenant community who live under the reign and rule of King Jesus who showed us that the Ten Commandments were not really restraints but brilliant facets in the diamond of His love. Let us show the world what is truly the best way to live, and the best way to live as those who are truly free.
Michael Horton The Law of Perfect Freedom
Edmund Clowney How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments
Philip Ross From the Finder of God