Relationship BEFORE Rules

Last Sunday the vicar made the bold assertion that one of the best known parts of the Bible is also one of the most theologically misunderstood.

He was referring to that part of the Old Testament story where the Hebrew slaves receive the Ten Commandments or Ten Words from the Lord.

 

The most important part of the commandments actually comes just before the commandments begin – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;”

 

God is already in relationship with his people, and the commandments come as part of God’s good gift to his people, to help them live a life of growing freedom in community.

 

If the order is reversed (i.e. Rules BEFORE Relationship) then commandments (or guidelines for living in community with God and each other) become either burdensome, or a way of gaining favour with God (i.e. keep the rules and God will love you).  A significant part of St Paul’s teaching is ensuring that his hearers (and readers) understand that Relationship needs to precede Rules for that relationship to be a healthy one.