This study was an excellent opportunity for me to dive into a topic that has been a big source of confusion to me, and I am sure to many others as well. It’s important to remember that just because one has questions about the commandments does not mean that they don’t want to keep them. That desire naturally wants knowledge to be able to steer correctly, and so studies like these are important. Though I should add that the greatest understanding of commandments does not come by study alone, but by actively living them.
Commandments are Given and Followed By Love
One of the ways I’ve come to measure my understanding of a commandment is whether I can see the element of love in it. Can I see the love from God in giving it to me, and the love for myself and others in following it? For example, one could view laws of sexual purity as restricting one’s pleasure, or they could see them as protecting oneself from deep wounding and facilitating a more abiding romance.
Jesus came at a time where the law had been inflated into an oppressive and unwieldy mass. I believe a very real part of his mission was to remind his contemporaries of this love that had been originally intended by the law.
John 13:34- A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 14:15- If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Matthew 22:37-39-Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Commandments Should be Personal
There already existed in the Mosaic Law provisions for the poor before Jesus’s ministry. For example, farmers were required to leave portions of their fields for the impoverished to freely glean from.
When Jesus instructed the rich young man to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor, though, he was asking for something that went far above what the law required. Of other people he had different life requirements.
“Go and sin no more.”
“Behold thy mother.”
“I will make you fishers of men.”
In each case Jesus understood that we need the explicitly spelled-out commandments, but that we then have additional personal needs fitted for our individual growth. To each of us he promises this same personalized guidance.
John 14:26- But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things
Commandments, Guidance, and Revelation
I know there all manner of voices that can cast confusion on the commandments. The world calls them unnecessary, the faithful give different interpretations to them, and your own mind may obsess over whether you are following them properly or not.
Even so there are answers if we look for them. There are resources to guide us rightly. Specific injunctions like those in Moses’s ten commandments lay the ground rules for us. General guidance like those in Jesus’s two great commandments explain what our intentions should be. Personal communion from the spirit adds the final element in being able to make personalized and worthy decisions.
And it is alright if our initial thoughts of what we are supposed to be doing are imperfect. We can be sure that God will steer us as needed, just so long as we are trying sincerely.
Isaiah 28:10- For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.