When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”
“What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” The question asked above, by the son to his father, is a simple question, and one that any parent has heard a million times. How many of you, having given a command or laid down a rule, have heard your 3-year old ask “Why?” Depending on my children’s ability to understand, or my frame of mind, I’d either answer the question or say something like, “Just trust me.”
Anticipating that the children will ask their parents this question concerning the commandments of God, the Lord instructs the parents to tell the children how He freed Israel from Egyptian slavery. Let’s not pass over this lightly. The Lord does not call the parents to reason with their children about the commandments, or explain why He says, “do this” or “don’t do that.” The Lord calls them to something far more important—telling the children who He is, for them. He wants Israel’s children to know that He is willing and able to do them good, and they can know it by learning what He had done for them in the past. Only then is the parent to give a reason—that the Lord gives His people commands for their good always, so that they might live. As always, obedience depends upon trust. And trust comes from relationship.
It is obvious that our culture wants nothing to do with God’s commands, especially commands having to do with sex. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and all the attendant restrictions of sex outside of marriage are hardly acknowledged. The rule for our culture is consent. Yet consensually breaking the Lord’s law still leads to harm, and in a myriad of ways. Whether our culture wants to hear it, it needs to know. Consider this bracing exhortation by J. Budziszewski:
It is a trifle for the upper strata to promote sexual liberation; those who have money can shield themselves (to a degree, and for a while) from at least some of the consequences of loose sexuality. The working classes do not have that luxury. In a county like this one, serial cohabitation and childbearing outside of marriage contribute more to poverty, dependency, and inequality than a million greedy capitalists do. Do you… really want to raise up the poor? Then do as the English Methodists did in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: First live the Commandments. Then go among the people and preach them. Start with the ones about marriage and family. I do not say this is all you should do, but if you won’t even do so much as this, then the rest of your social justice talk is hypocritical. You may as well admit that it is all about you.
Making the link between sexual sin and poverty can get a college student ridiculed or a university sociologist fired. It is much easier to point to unemployment or income inequality or the minimum wage. Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in exactly those kinds of conversations, often not realizing that, at best, such solutions only scratch the surface of our problems. It is the call of the Church to speak what is fundamentally true—the truth that Jesus delivered us from sin and the wrath of God when He died and rose again, and thereby demonstrated that He is both willing and able to do us good. And therefore can be trusted.
Do we trust God? Are we convinced that God’s commandments are for not only for our good, but for the good of the world? That walking apart from God leads to death? Convinced enough to live them? Convinced enough to say so? If so, we will incur the ridicule and/or the wrath of the world, even as we show the world what life can look like when a people trusts God. If not, we’ll enjoy peace with the world, while making plain that we don’t trust God, that we don’t love our neighbor, and that it really is all about us.
Heavenly Father, as children are taught to obey the commands of their parents, work in our hearts to bring us to obedience to Your commandments, that we would not fear the scorn of the world but seek to build Your Kingdom. May we be a voice for the unborn and the elderly, to care for the vulnerable as You have commanded us to do. In Your Name we Pray, Amen.
This week’s reflection has been written by Anglicans for Life’s Board Member, the Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn. Rev. Blackburn is the Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Fellowship in Boone, NC.