The Ten Commandments. Can you name all of them? They may be the most famous Old Testament scriptures in the Bible. But what do we know about them? Do they still apply today? Our host, Chris Staron, talks about the biblical concept of covenants and why these commandments, though great, may not apply today.
Here’s the thing, we put up a big stink about monuments to the ten commandments. Roy Moore and Scott Pruitt are both prominent advocates for them being displayed in courtrooms, schools, and parks. But we, as Christians, are no longer under these laws. Why do we keep coming back to them? When will we start building monuments to “turn the other cheek” or “love your neighbor as yourself”?
Tell us what you think by leaving a comment or emailing us a voice memo from your phone!
CS: Chris Staron (host)
CS: Arkansas. 2017. It’s dark around the state capital building. A relatively calm evening. People drive quietly, each car following a similar, steady path as the one before it. Until a Dodge Dart speeds up a hill and veers off the road. One car decided to depart from the normal trajectory and smashed into a three ton stone monument. Breaking it into, basically, three large pieces.
And the monument had been there less than twenty four hours. Now it lay strewn across a boring concrete sidewalk. For almost one glorious day this monument had once displayed the Ten Commandments, the laws that God gave to Moses on top of the mountain. Now it was just another mess for the janitors to clean up.
This was no accident. The man driving the car in question did it on purpose. Because he didn’t believe that the US government should be allowed to display texts from a religious document. Something about separation of church in state. So he drove his car into a solid object.
Strangely… this wasn’t the first time he’d driven off the road and into a monument. Or into a monument of the ten commandments. He’d done it in Oklahoma in 2014, breaking that one into four pieces. That time he said it was because Satan had told him to do it. He was hearing voices.
In Arkansas, though, he claimed to be a Christian.
The man was treated for mental illness. Don’t let that cloud your judgement. This guy in the Dodge Dart… he represents an extreme version of something we keep bumping up against. Something… we may need to rethink.
You’re listening to the podcast that uses journalistic tools to look inside the Christian church. We press pause on the culture wars to explore how we got here and how we can do better. I’m Chris Staron. This is Truce.
The Bible is divided into two big chunks. The Old Testament and the New Testament. Right? You knew that. If we were to think really simply about this, let’s say that this is the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Jewish people have the Old Testament, Christians have the new. They’ve got one agreement with God, and we’ve got the fulfillment of that agreement. .
The Bible has all of these… contracts between God and humanity. Bigger than contracts. They are super, hyper, binding agreements. They’re called covenants.
Let’s really over simplify here and say we can basically call those same two chunks of the Bible two different covenants. The Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The Old Testament and the New Testament.
Before you write in, I know there are more than two covenants in the Old Testament alone. But… we’ve got a long way to go. Lets keep it simple.
Old Testament, Old Covenant. New Testament, New Covenant.
I asked some people around my church to describe these two different covenants.
CS: So, the kind of friend I am, I come to parties where everybody is around the fire, having food…
MALE 1 : Socializing.
CS: Socializing. Enjoying hot dogs. And I ask them about the difference between the old and the new covenant. So, friend… what do you know about the old and new covenants.
MALE 1: So, the old covenant, if I was to give an elevator speech on it is that God gave us 10 commandments to live and that was the commandment we were supposed to agree to to live as righteous as we could on earth.
FEMALE: Oh, should I name them then?
FEMALE: Okay. Thou shall have no other god before me.
MALE 2: Thou shall make no graven images.
MALE 1: You know don’t kill, don’t murder, don’t covet thy neighbors wife, that kind of stuff.
CS: Actually covers a lot of different areas of coveting in general, believe it or not.
FEMALE: Okay, fair.
MALE 3: Thou shall not steal.
MALE 2: Keep holy the sabbath, honor your father and mother.
FEMALE: Thou shalt not ask friends difficult questions in party settings (laughing).
MALE 2: Don’t commit adultery.
FEMALE: Thou shall not use the name of the Lord they God in vain.
MALE 2: Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill.
FEMALE: The law illustrates, basically, where we fall short in our need for God. But I think, in terms of a covenant, I feel like we break that covenant often. And there was always some type of trying to sacrifice and redeem ourselves for falling short of that covenant.
MALE 2: In the old covenant in order for us, after we sin, to be made right again there would have to be blood sacrifices or (people singing “Happy Birthday” in the background) we would have to offer something for atonement to get us back right with God again, there would have to be… it says… I don’t know where in the Bible, but it says, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sins.”
MALE 3: There’ s a lot. There’s a lot of rules. And the new covenant is where Christ came to die for our sins, he died on the cross to forgive us of our sins so that we could have eternal life by faith, or… yeah. Faith and grace… what’s the word I’m looking for? Gosh, this is hard! This is hard.
CS: You’re doing awesome.
FEMALE: The new covenant, brought to us by Jesus’ shed blood, is a new covenant, basically not on our own merits, not on our own work, but what He’s done for us sacrificially once and for all. The righteous dying for the unrighteous so that just through belief in Him we can have eternal life.
MALE 2: Our sins are forgiven currently, so we don’t have to do anything to be right standing with God other than receive His grace.
CS: Am I rocking this? I’m rocking this party.
MALE 2: Oh yeah, oh yeah. There’s lots of girls checking you out right now.
CS: First, let’s look at the Old covenant. The Old Testament is kind of like watching the world grow. It goes from being one person…
CS: to two…
CS: To a family to many nations.
CS: One of those nations became the Jews. Their country, as you probably know, was Israel. And God gave these people laws to follow. Some of which, were the ten commandments: don’t murder, steal, lust, have other gods, etc. Those were just some of the laws. If you broke the law it was called sin. Still is. In the Old Covenant if you sinned, you had to pay for it by sacrificing animals. Because sin requires blood. If sin happens, something has to bleed. In the Old Covenant, they dealt with that by sacrificing a lot of animals. A lot lot. Sometimes for individual sins… sometimes for the sins of a whole nation.
Some cows. Sheep. (ANIMAL SOUNDS)
It would have been hard to keep a good petting zoo open. There were laws about what you could and could not eat. Jewish people couldn’t eat pork, had to be circumcised, wore certain clothes, followed the ten commandments, celebrated festivals.
And… all the while. (ANIMAL SOUNDS)
In the New Covenant, all of that sacrificing was done away with. Blood was still required for sin. Instead of killing animals… it was Jesus’ blood that paid the price.
With that new agreement, with that new covenant, came different rules. Each new covenant in the Bible means new terms. The old covenant is done away with, and the new one sets up shop.
Let’s say you make an agreement with your roommate. If you agree to cut the grass, then your roommate, Derek,
DEREK: ALL RIGHT, BRO
CS: will do the dishes. We’ll make this agreement behave live a covenant. So, you’re out in the yard, pushing the lawn mower. (MOWER) Hard at work. You go inside to get a glass of lemonade and… there are no… clean… glasses. The whole sink is still full of unwashed cups.
And Derek is on the couch watching reality TV. If our example were like our relationship with God, you’d have the right to demand some sort of payment for your labors. Derek maybe owes you something for not keeping his end of the bargain. That could be money. Maybe you get the bigger room. Something. There has to be payment.
But this happens across time. God holds up his end of the bargain (MOWING) and we fail. God holds up His end of the bargain (MOWING) and we fail.
Yeah. Dishes in the sink.Throughout the Old Testament, we kept being like Derek. We couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hold up our end of the bargain. God stayed true to His promises, but we… didn’t. Which is is why the people kept having to (ANIMAL SOUNDS) sacrifice.
This is not a perfect example. But let’s say this arrangement with the dishes and mowing the lawn is not working out. What you and Derek might do is say, Derek vacuums the living room and you’ll dust the furniture. If these agreements were covenants, that old thing with the dishes and the grass would be done. No more. If you and Derek make a new covenant to trade vacuuming for dusting, the old one is over. The new covenant puts an end to the old one. There is now only vacuuming and dusting. No more mowing the grass in exchange for dishes.
When Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, the old Covenant was done away with. Caput. Finito. No more. Our debt was paid. No more sacrifices. When the new covenant came, the old Covenant stopped.
You can see this for yourself in Hebrews 8 if you want to fact check me. Jesus took our debt on himself. And that old covenant is done. Until… and we have a nasty habit of this… until we try to bring it back.
FOX REPORTER: What some are calling a new blow for the faithful, just days after the US Supreme Court redefined the definition of marriage.
CS: In 2015, Fox News reported that a stone monument was causing trouble.
FOX REPORTER: Has declared that a monument of the ten commandments is a religious symbol and must be removed from the grounds of the state capitol.
CS: A judge had ordered that they be removed, calling for separation of church and state. The state’s attorney general fought back. That attorney general was? Scott Pruitt. Who we did a whole episode about. Go back and listen to it. I didn’t know that before I started researching this episode. This show is getting very very meta for me.
The monument came down in October of that year. It was met with wide press coverage and a peaceful protest by cowboys on horseback. And the monument came down. Peacefully this time, no Dodge Darts.
Roy Moore, another person we’ve discussed on the show, had his own battle with the ten commandments on public land. He had a marble monument installed in the Arkansas state judicial building. He was removed from office in 2003 because he didn’t comply with a ruling that the monument had to go. And so he went… with the monument.
Moore was elected again in 2012. And then he was ousted again.
It’s not just these big name guys. There’s a school in Pennsylvania that had a ten commandments monument taken down in 2017. The state capitol building in Texas.A Kentucky courthouse… And the US Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that some of them are acceptable and some are not. It has to do with whether or not they promote religion or are a part of a display of historic legal documents. Basically, you just need to slap a Magna Carta next to it and you might just be okay.
Some of us Christians get really passionate about the ten commandments. We celebrate when they go up, and we protest when they come down.These monuments are largely supported and erected by Christians. The thing is… The ten commandments. Do you know where they are in the Bible?
The Old Testament.
Which means, if you remember from before, Christians are no longer under these laws. They are part of a whole different covenant, an old agreement with God.
We Christians keep putting up laws that we are no longer subject to, at least in that nice ten point fashion. We fight to keep them there. We put them on coffee mugs and t-shirts. Key chains. Online I even saw a cross with the ten commandments etched into it. Which is funny because, if you think about it, it was that cross that put the ten commandments out of business.
Huh. So what do we do now?
Before you decide to take a Dodge Dart to your local monument, let me briefly tell you what Jesus said.
He said that the old covenant told us not to commit adultery. I guess we all knew that. But Jesus upped the ante. He said that if one of us looks at another person with list in our hearts we’ve already committed adultery. It’s not just about our actions, but about our heart. We don’t even have to have sex with someone else to have committed adultery.
He does the same for murder. If we hate someone, we’ve committed murder in our heart.
So, we’re not technically under the ten commandments anymore. But we are called to a high standard as Christians. Because it matters where our hearts are and not just what we do.
We spend so much energy fighting over the ten commandments in the public square. Yet, nobody is fighting to keep “love your neighbor as yourself” or “turn the other cheek” on the walls of any courtroom.
There’s nothing wrong with monuments, really, we can build as many as we want to. As long as we realize that monuments are a testament to the past. If we want to have an impact on the future, the really important monuments have to be living and breathing. They have to be us.
The ten commandments work so well because they are succinct. Yet, that’s not the standard that we are called to. Ours is a much higher one. Maybe our goal shouldn’t be the simplicity of a bullet pointed list. Maybe our goal should be living out our lives to be monuments.You could have thousands of living, breathing monuments testifying to the work of Christ everywhere they go. Wherever you work, eat, shop, live. In courtrooms, hallways, schools there could be people who really love their neighbor and share the gospel. Isn’t that much better than some old words etched into stone tablets brought down from a mountain that, technically, no longer apply? I think so.
Tell us what you think about these ten commandment monuments by recording a voice memo on your phone and emailing it to me at trucepodcast[at symbol @] yahoo.com.
Special thank to Karl Klemmer and Nick Staron for helping with research for this episode. Our logo is by Andy Huff, and Roy Browning from the Business Acumen podcast built our beautiful new website.Go look at it. That site is trucepodcast.com, and once there you can see pictures, read related articles, find links to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and much more. We’ve also got a sweet email list that will keep you up-to-date and is full of bonus materials. If you like what you hear please go to your social media platforms and share one of our ads with your followers. A like is nice, but shares are better. And consider donating a few dollars to us if you can. You can cover the cost of our Skype calls with just $3 per month. Or the cost of our music, which is about $8.30 per month. Links are available on the website or go to patreon.com/trucepodcast. And, hey, thanks for listening.
I’m Chris Staron. This is Truce.