“Sin is the failure to live freedom excellently.” George Weigel
When we were children, we told ourselves, when we grew up, we would do what we want. We would stay up late, drive a car, and watch whatever we want on television.
But then we grew up and wished we could go to bed earlier. We wondered how we’d pay for car repairs. And we wanted to find some time to watch TV. Or when we did have the time, we wished there’d be something on worth watching.
We didn’t realize as children that our extra sleep helped us function and learn. Our parents chauffeured us around while bearing the burdens of car ownership and maintenance. And we enjoyed an innocence about how the world worked–or failed to work well.
We still don’t realize–and often don’t like to admit–rules are good for us.
The Ten Commandments are not just a list of what not to do–the “Thou shalt not’s”–not idolizing, misusing God’s name, stealing, lying, murdering, coveting, and adultering–or something like that.
They also list what to do. The “Thou shalt’s”–honor God, the Sabbath, our parents.
Those three seem less obvious to us. They don’t seem to carry the weight of immediate consequence, at least when we’re older. But they are perhaps even more important. They keep us from the others. The “Thou shalt’s” help us avoid the “Thou shalt not’s.”
Yet every day, we are free to choose. In fact, our ability to choose our actions, according to George Weigel “is what distinguishes the human person from the rest of the natural world[;] freedom is the great organizing principle of a life lived in a truly human way.”
Life is hard. But when we live our freedom excellently we are most free.
Someone recently pointed out to me that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites after they left the bondage of Egypt.
I had never thought of that before. I had never pondered why God didn’t give a set of rules written in stone to Adam and Eve upon their departure from the Garden. Or to Noah 120 years before the flood. Or to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.
God waited until His own people would be setting up their own society–a newfound society of free people coming out of bondage. He gave them guideposts, like road signs. Go this way. Don’t go that way. Avoid the bondage of sin.
They aren’t rules to limit us. They’re rules to free us.
“Had your law not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” Psalm 119:92.
It’s something every generation must learn on its own. And I confess that I learned many life lessons the hard way. When we learn that way, we come to see the rules as protective.
God wrote those rules in stone. They serve or are disregarded by everyone through history.
As children, we resented our parents’ rules while they formed a hedge of protection around us.
The wise delight in the rules and in the One who gave them to us as a gift.