Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Meditation on the Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and that husband and wife each love and honor the other.
Marriage is the most beautiful earthly estate that God has established on the earth.  Marriage should be highly treasured and given its proper place.  Just envision the bride on her wedding day, adorned with a glorious wedding garment.  The spotless garment is a perfect picture of what wedded life should be like.  The bride walks into the sanctuary to say her vows to her soon-to-be husband and all eyes are on her.  The beauty of marriage is typified in the garment which the bride is wearing.
Yet it doesn't take long before the wedding garment is soiled.  By the time the festivities are over the garment looks used and dirty.  It no longer holds that glorious radiance which was present just hours before.  Usually the dress is then cleaned and boxed up, it is put out of sight and out of mind.  The glory which the garment displayed is usually forgotten and the cares of life begin eating away at the beautiful estate of marriage, like a mouse eating away at the beautiful garment that was once part of the highlight of a wedding.
Married couples soon forget that glorious day.  They become wrapped up in the cares of life and at times show bitterness and anger towards each other.  Slowly but surely they lose that physical attraction that brought them together in the first place and they find themselves just biding their time together, trying to keep their families together and doing their part to make ends meet.  If their love towards each other is not kindled, it will eventually go out.
If our children are fortunate, their parents stay together until death parts them, but most of them see a much less appealing side of marriage.  Two individuals come together to unite as one flesh, yet they have done things their own ways for so long that they are unable to adapt.  Stress begins to mount and the glorious wedding dress doesn't look very glorious anymore.  Children perceive our thoughts through how we act in our marriages.  The young look to us for guidance, but when we have given them a poor example to live by we destroy the sanctity and beauty of marriage that God had established it to be.
Sure it may keep the marriage bed pure for our generation, but when our own marriages lack the splendor and appeal God gave them we show nothing but a poor example for the next generation to follow.  It’s no wonder people are so willing to try other things that have been condemned by God (co-habitation, homosexuality, or experiential love, etc.).  They see people failing every day in the marriage that God designed, so they think to themselves, why not try something else.
Yet, Christ’s marriage to His Church has never failed.  Jesus united himself to mankind by taking on human flesh and living a perfect life under the law.  He sanctified our bodies by pouring out blood from His side to wash all sin away.  Then He rose from the dead to prove to us that God had approved of His sacrifice.  This is the marriage we are to look to when our own marriage is troubled.  This is the marriage we are to look to when our sins are weighing us down.  And this is the marriage we are to aspire to imitate.  Only Jesus’ marriage to His Church succeeds against all odds.  Every time our wedding garment becomes soiled, we return to Him to be washed and cleansed.  We return to Him so that we are not looking at our own imperfect human examples but aspiring to His willingness to love us, even when we did not deserve it. 
God grant us a willing heart and mind to be chaste in all our thoughts, words, and actions, so that we treasure marriage as we ought.  Help husbands and wives to love and honor each other, as Christ has so loved us, and to set an inspiring example of marriage; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Meditation on the Fifth Commandment

You shall not kill.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do no bodily harm to our neighbor, but help and befriend him in every need.
God has given us the fifth commandment so that all human life would be protected, built up and supported by others.  In this commandment we learn how we are to live life among our neighbors and learn how we are to conduct ourselves toward fellow human beings.
In the meaning to the commandment Luther points out that to kill means to do bodily harm.  Any infliction of pain that we purposely commit against our neighbor is considered murder.  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15).  One cannot even claim that he is teaching his neighbor a lesson, because God has given the power to punish wrongdoers to the government.  It is not the prerogative of an individual to get back at his enemies.  Anger, reproof, and punishment are the prerogatives of God and His representatives, and they are to be exercised upon those who transgress.
All to often, the spirit of revenge clings to each one of us.  None of us willing suffers injury from another, which is why God would keep this commandment before us at all times.  Revenge is often easy to see in our children.  They fight back and retaliate when things do not go their way.  The longer we harbor hatred the harder it is to be rid of it.  Hatred clings to us.  But God reminds us that it should not be so.
This commandment also requires us to be proactive like a sports team on offense, so that we help those who are in need.  If we fail to do good to our neighbor when we have opportunity, or if we fail to prevent, protect, or save him from suffering bodily harm or injury.  “If you send the naked away without clothes, you have let him freeze to death.  If you see anyone suffer hunger and do not feed him, you have let him starve.”  Anytime we fail to befriend someone in need, we have contributed to his death whether we directly caused it or not.  God rightly calls all persons murderers who do not offer counsel and aid to those in need and in peril of body and life.
As we look into the mirror of the 5th commandment, we lose heart because we have neglected those in need, harbored hatred against our enemies, and loved ourselves more than others.  For all of this we should be truly sorry and seek to amend our sinful ways, since the love of Christ compels us.
All of our sins have been punished in Christ.  He loved his enemies, even to the point of death.  We were his enemies and he willingly died for us.  “For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; the righteous for the unrighteous.” No sin has been left for us to suffer punishment on our own, even our weakness and inability to protect our neighbor’s lives as we ought.  Christ has paid for all of them and has held nothing against us. 
Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  When we pray the Lord’s prayer we ask God to be gracious unto us and for Him to cause us to be gracious unto others so that even though neither we nor they are worthy of forgiveness we forgive as we have already been forgiven.
May God grant us His grace to live according to His Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Meditation on the Fourth Commandment

Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise our parents or superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.
In the Large Catechism Luther observes that “The thoughts of this commandment are plain and simple words, and everyone thinks that he already knows them well.  So he passes over them lightly, fastens his attention on other things, and fails to perceive and believe how angry he makes God when he neglects this commandment, and how precious and acceptable a work he does when he observes it.” (LC 1:140)  [1]Luther points out that “honor” includes not only love but also respect, humility, and modesty that is directed at the estate or vocation of parenthood.  We are to obey our parents as we are to obey God because He has placed our parents over us.  God serves us through our parents and they are worthy of the same type of honor (except worship) which we are to show towards God in all our thoughts, words, and actions.  And even though parents fail at times, they are not to be deprived of their honor because of such failings.
What is meant by parents?  God uses the fourth commandment to establish rule and authority on the earth.  All earthly power stems from the estate of our parents.  It includes parents by blood, parents by adoption or guardianship, it includes parents of civil realm…city, state, and federal government, and it also includes our spiritual fathers who watch over our spiritual care and feed us with God’s Word.
What have we received from our parents?  Most significant of all is life.  We have been given food, shelter, and clothing, we have been and are being educated.  A God-fearing education is the responsibility of parents…not the Sunday School or public education.  As children we are to expect to be reared in a God-pleasing and God-praising manner.  An education that lacks a solid foundation upon God does more harm than good because it undermines who God is.  Children have a right to expect their parents to act as the arm of God by training them and disciplining them through His word.  It is God who has given children to us parents to care for and to bring up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.  That responsibility falls on our shoulders as parents.
As apt as we are to fail at following the fourth commandment it is the only commandment with promise clearly stated; “That it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” (Eph 6:2-3)  It is through the arm of obedience to our parents, superiors, employers, civil authorities and our spiritual authorities that we are provided for.  God uses each one of these estates as a means through which he provides life and abundant blessing…instead of cursing.  If we would only listen and be persuaded that works of obedience are pleasing to God, we would be so overwhelmed with our blessings that we shall have all our heart’s desire.  But we cannot comply.  Everyone does what they please and the world is full of shame, misery, and murder.  We simply think we know better than our superiors and we set an example for our children not to obey.
Yet, that did not stop Christ from obeying all those in authority over him.  As a child he went with Mary and Joseph and was subject to them…and even then he was about His Father’s business.  All the way to the cross he was about His Father’s business…not for His own benefit or the benefit of His Father, but for our benefit He willingly obeyed even to the point of death.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we would not have to suffer eternally for our inability to live up to the demands of the fourth commandment.  May we, through the love he poured out on us, strive to honor all those in authority over us. Amen.

[1] Tappert, Theodore. The Book of Concord. Fortress Press, 1959.