Summary: Analysis of the prologue of the ten commandments with special emphasis on the role of the law in the Christian’s life.

Welcome to the year 2000. CNN put together a list of the top 100 news stories of the 20th century, and number 82 on that list is the space shuttle "Challenger" disaster. Most of us probably remember January 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger burst into flames 73 seconds after liftoff, resulting in the worse space disaster in world history. Seven crew members--six astronauts and a civilian school teacher--all lost their lives in that explosion. An evaluation of the disaster concluded that the reason why the Challenger exploded was because of the failure of a small rubber o-ring to decompress because of the cold weather. Apparently the o-ring manufacturer had warned NASA that the o-ring wouldn’t function correctly in cold conditions, but people ignored the manufacturer’s specifications resulting in a horrible tragedy for 7 people and their families. It’s quite amazing something as seemingly insignificant as an 0-ring could bring such destruction.That’s true of life as well, that when we ignore even the small things God has revealed about life, we end up destroying ourselves. God is the manufacturer of all life, and his specifications about how to live are given to ensure that we live properly. When we ignore God’s specifications, the disastrous results are no less tragic as we saw on that January day in 1986.As the United States enters a new millennium, we as a culture are living in the midst of a moral hangover. Consider some of these statistics from former United States drug czar William Bennett in his updated version of the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators (Bennett 1999). Between 1960 and 1997 violent crime rose 467%, the number of prison inmates increased by 463% and out of wedlock births rose 461% (4). Since 1960 the teen suicide rate doubled, the divorce rate doubled, and couples living together outside of marriage saw a ten fold increase (21). Since 1979 illegal drug use has risen 55% (34). The average American now consumes 36 gallons of alcohol each year (39). The rate of Sexually Transmitted Diseases spreading in America far exceeds any other country in the world (86). Americans spend $9 million each year on pornography (175).

Bennett concludes,"During the last half of this American century, we have made extraordinary progress in medicine, science, and technology. We have advanced the cause of civil rights at home and human rights abroad. We have achieved unprecedented levels of wealth and affluence...But we have lost something in the process. The nation we live in today is more violent and vulgar, coarse and cynical, rude and remorseless, deviant and depressed than the one we once inhabited. A popular culture that is often brutal, gruesome, and enamored with death robs many children of their innocence. People kill other people and themselves more easily. Men and women abandon each other, and their children more readily. Marriage and the American family are weaker, [and] more unstable" (5).

We’re like a culture lost in unfamiliar territory without a map. What we need are some landmarks, some fixed points of reference to figure out where we are and where to go. We need the manufacturer’s specifications. This is where the Ten Commandments come in, as a way to find some fixed landmarks as we enter a new millennium. Of course our problem is that though we respect the Ten Commandments, we’re ignorant about what they say and unsure about how they apply in our lives. For instance, in a 1988 Gallup Poll, 85% of Americans said they believed the ten commandments were morally binding, yet only 15% of Americans could name them (Hughes 13). Jews, Roman Catholics, Protestants differ on how to number the 10 Commandments.And once we figure out what they are, how do we apply them? Last year a small Georgia town called Brooksville tried to use the 10 Commandments as the basis of their city laws (Christianity Today 6/14/99 15). That sounds good at first, especially with the sixth commandment against murder and the eighth commandment against stealing. But do you really want to put a member of the First Church of Elvis behind bars for violating the first commandment? Elvis worshippers may be weird, but I’m not sure they’re criminals. And are you really going to arrest a tenth grader for trying to cheat on his history test because he violated the ninth commandment? And how do you pass laws against coveting?Recently nationally syndicated talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger has written a book on the 10 commandments. It’s a book full of great insights and helpful suggestions from a conservative Jewish perspective. But at the heart of Dr. Laura’s book is the idea that the 10 Commandments are God’s way for us to make ourselves better people (19). She likens the 10 Commandments as God’s pre-nuptial agreement, that we can have a relationship with God if we agree to live according to these laws. Is that really how the 10 Commandments apply?Christian theologians and Bible teachers have differed a lot about how the 10 Commandments relate to Christians, and I’ve posted an in-depth article on our church web site to explain my perspective on this issue for further study and reflection.Today we start a new series on the 10 Commandments called LANDMARKS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM. In this series we’re going to look in depth at how these ancient principles apply to post-modern followers of Jesus Christ as we enter a third millennium of Christianity. Today we’re going to set the context for the 10 commandments by looking at the prologue. And as we look at the prologue for the 10 commandments we’re going to find something to remember, something to recognize, and a way to view the 10 commandments.

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