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    Sep 24, 2017

    The Disciple's Walk

    Passage: Exodus 20:12-17

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Series: God's Top Ten: The Ten Commandments for Today

    Category: The Bible for Today

    Walking the walk of discipleship has some basic rules of conduct -- all relating to our love for God.

    “Talk the talk” and “walk the walk” are phrases that are often overused to the point of  being trite and meaningless. However, I’m going to take the risk today of using the concept of walking the walk as it definitely applies to our reflections on the Ten Commandments.

    Last Sunday we focused on the first 4 Words of the Decalogue – the ones that lay the foundation – they articulate the motivation – the why—for following God’s ways and living as a disciple. Today we are looking at the other 6 words – the ones that define in the simplest of terms what it means to walk as a child of God – to live out our faith.

    So I wondered if there were any quotes by writers or recognized leaders that would be motivational, nudging us to step up – to grow in “walking the walk” of discipleship with renewed commitment and intentionality. The surprise was that none of the writers was a Christian leader! But there was insight that certainly applies. Here are a few:

    Stephen Covey, a renowned business author, said this: “You can say you love someone – but unless you demonstrate that love through your actions, your words become meaningless.”  Translated into walking the walk of faith language, that quote might read: You can say you love God or believe in God, but unless you demonstrate that love through your actions, your words become meaningless.

    Edmond Mbiaka, a writer, had two gems: The habit of talking the talk has distracted many people from walking the walk. And he also said, "Success is always the outcome of walking the talk."

    Success. Do most of us ever even think about whether we are successful in walking the disciple’s path. How do you measure your success as a disciple? How do you know whether you are walking the walk? Or do we assume that coming to church occasionally or trying to be a good person is the equivalent of “walking the walk.” Or that, just because we haven’t killed somebody or committed adultery, we are successful as disciples?

    The Ten Words have a different take. We’ve already explored the first 4, but let’s first reiterate the importance of those first few Words since everything else hangs on them. The first Words make it clear that the disciple bases everything on God.  Everything. And it is in committing our lives to doing whatever we do out of our worship of God – in other words living out our worship – that we observe the last 6 Words out of reverence and obedience to God. It is not because we want to be good people. It’s not because we are afraid we will have to face the Judgment (that is with a capital J). It is because, out of reverence and love for God, we seek to be obedient.

    Jesus got it right when he said that the greatest commandment is to love God above all and that a second commandment is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself. Simply put, the last six Words – or Commandments 5 through 10 – are the no-frills, clearly stated ways that we are to love our neighbor.

    Word Six is honor your father and your mother and indicates that when you do, you will live a long time in the land God has given you. Remember that each commandment is based on loving God – who gives us life. Honoring our parents is basic. Living with grace and obedience in our family unit is where we learn most of what we know about getting along with others – how to live together – how to show respect and express love. In this first word on how to walk the walk of discipleship, the assumption is that we will live out our love for God by learning to love in our first faith family – with our parents.

    In the first letter of John, chapter 4, verses 19-21, the evangelist wrote: 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

    I don’t think it’s accidental that the very first commandment in the cluster of those relating to walking the walk by loving our neighbors – or being with people – is about honoring our human parents. Parents form the first and most intimate relationship with every child. It is our parents who teach us about love firsthand – who show us love so we learn about God’s love. And God knows how human children are often tempted at every turn to be disobedient – to “eat the apple” as it were. Practice with your parents seems pretty good advice, and it also sets us on the path of discipleship from the very beginning of life.

    I know that there are times when parents are not equipped to love as God loves or who are impaired in some way that gets in the way of loving as God loves. For some, that is true over the long haul. For others, it is happens less often. Please understand that I am not talking about the normal, everyday mistakes that parents make. I’m referring to serious impairment that may come from a lust for power and control or from something like substance abuse. Remember that the commandment is basic. When humans break away from God – when we sin – the foundation shifts and people get hurt. When a child is harmed by the sin of the parents, the child is not the responsible party nor are children generally equipped to repair the tear in this foundational fabric of life. It is up to the parent to seek the path to wholeness and reconciliation.

    The remaining five Words are ethical issues – behaviors that pretty much every culture would describe as unethical: lying, murdering, stealing, committing adultery, and coveting – or wanting what someone else has. The author that I quoted last week has some helpful insight on the construction of these commandments. He points out that these words begin with

    “a simple command, a negative that means "never," and often followed by a reason or a motive for the command…These instructions always relate to religious matters, actions that are directly tied to the nature and character of Israel’s God. Even when they relate to what we might call "ethical" issues, such as coveting a neighbor’s property (Ex. 20:17), they are understood to be grounded in Israel’s understanding of God. They are not merely social convention or practical application, but matters fundamental to the life of the people as the ones chosen to be God’s people. They are the absolute and unequivocal basis for human conduct. They did not change with the whims of the king, but were the baseline against which Israel, people as well as leaders, was to measure its behavior under God. [Dennis Bratcher, CRIVoice]

    Let me read one of those insights again: They are not merely social convention or practical application, but matters fundamental to the life of the people as the ones chosen to be God’s people. They are the absolute and unequivocal basis for human conduct.

    To be clear, Mr. Bratcher is not saying that these are religious matters in that they relate only to our behavior in church or a church function. They are religious matters when our whole life is founded on God and God’s ways – in other words, when we have committed our lives as disciples. So, let’s look at just a couple of the other commands.

    Do not lie. This particular Word is often translated “do not bear false witness.” Of course that could have legal connotations, and bearing false witness in a court proceeding could have horrible consequences for the person on trial or engaged in a suit of any kind. But probably closer to home this Word is as everyday as brushing our teeth. How often are we tempted to embellish a story or claim to have the facts when someone brings up a situation with which we are only slightly familiar? How often do we supply the reason someone did something or share information as truth when we really don’t know for sure? Even in our church family context that can complicate things! And when we complicate things for another person, we are just not loving as God loves.

    Do not murder. This one is pretty easy – right? None of us would ever murder – right?? Many of you know that the staff has been seriously reflecting together on racism and privilege. I’m not going deeply into this today, but as I prepared for both this morning and last Tuesday’s staff meeting, Jimmy Carter intruded on my thoughts and brought me to my knees. Remember that famous Playboy article when he talked about committing sin when he lusted in his heart? He owned the sin of his intention even when he didn’t act on it. Some people thought it was silly or stupid – I mean, we all have the occasional lusty thought, don’t we?

    Jimmy Carter was and is a man of deep faith. A man whose life’s ambition is to follow God’s ways. A man who knows that it is always possible to sin. And a man who examines his behavior and his internal compass so that he walks the walk to the very best of his ability.

    The commandment is do not murder. The insight the scripture brought to me this week was that when we commit the sin of racism or sexism or any –ism or refuse to examine our lives for how our privilege harms someone else, it’s a form of murder. It is way too easy to kill the spirit or the hope or the dreams of another person – someone we can see. How can we say we love God whom we cannot see when we do not love a neighbor who’s right in front of us?

    Who knew that when I thought, “two weeks on this topic is plenty,” (I even had it outlined back in April!!) who knew that I’d get to #7 and feel like we needed 2 more weeks – well, maybe one more? Simple. Basic. Right?

    Success as a Christian disciple is not measured in the same way that we can measure the success of business or career. Success in walking the walk of faith is about going deep when we think it’s simple. Going the extra mile. Thinking beyond what’s right in front of us. Success as a disciple who loves God is about walking the walk WITH GOD all the time, every day. Not checking a box – do not murder – check. Not measuring by what someone else does or says or thinks. Success as a disciple is walking the walk as best we can, truly seeking God’s direction as to what that means.