Mumford & Sons, ‘Sigh No More’
And so we reach the final – and First – Word: “God.” As the text says,
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:2
I think it is unfortunate that the First Word according to the Talmud is only seen as the prologue to the Ten Commandments by the church. If these Ten Words are indeed given in order that this group of recently freed slaves might discover a way of life together that maintains their – and others’ – freedom, then to be have carved into stone who it is who has not only given these Words, but also has set them free seems to be the appropriate starting place for this new way of life. For if we forget the source of our freedom, all too often we fall back into the bondage from which we have been delivered, or we go on to put others into bondage. We were set free to live as freed persons – and to ensure that others enjoy that same freedom also. The story of Israel – and the church – reveals that we have failed to keep these Words.
But that should not surprise us. As John says in this chapter, “The Ten Words show us how we’re supposed to live, and then shows us that we can’t do it! Because even those of us who want to live that way discover that we can’t. There’s this power inside us – call it sin or selfishness or whatever you like – that keeps us from living up to our own standards, let alone God’s, right? So we live with fear and insecurity and suspicion and pain, and we can’t make enough money, or buy enough stuff, or do enough drugs, or drink enough booze, or have enough sex, or go to church enough, or whatever else we do to try and mask the reality of our lives. The reality that we are indeed powerless to live the life we want.” And so we need a second exodus: the first from slavery in Egypt, the second from slavery to sin and death:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin…but if the son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus, from John 8:34-36
This is the good news we have been waiting for. Love sets us free. Not by merely telling us what not to do, but by giving us the power to live a life of freedom. We do not keep the Ten Words through fear of punishment, but out of gratitude for the new life we have been given. And anyone who claims to speak for the God who sets people free, but who speaks only (or mostly) of fear and punishment and right behavior, but not of love and joy and peace and freedom is not speaking of the God of the exodus, nor of Jesus.
So, for our final playlist, I’m looking for songs that capture this idea – that love sets us free, and out of gratitude for our freedom we live a life of freedom, helping others find the same. A life that is characterized by peace, and joy and generosity and wonder and delight, and indignation at anything – or anybody – that withholds those things from others. Leave your suggestions in the comments below, and please share this last post, so we can have a kicking playlist for the First Word. I truly appreciate all of those who have participated in what has not only been a fun but also a meaningful experience.
Last week’s playlist is available here: make no idols. Congratulations to Alan Combs, who scores a copy of TEN for his suggestion of “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails.