I was reading Christian Century (August 11, 2009) yesterday and they listed the "New Ten Commandments". They are as follows:
1. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
2. Take responsibility for your actions.
3. Do not kill.
4. Be honest.
5. Do not steal.
6. Protect and nurture children.
7. Protect the environment.
8. Look after the vulnerable.
9. Never be violent.
10. Protect your family.
I like these rules. I think if we all followed them, the world would definitely be a better place. But, the problem with them is something is seriously lacking. None of these rules address our relationship with God. If we look at the original Ten Commandments, we see that the first 4 are explicitly about our relationship with God:
1. Thou shalt have no other God before me.
2. Thou shalt not create false idols.
3. Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain.
4. Thou shalt honor the sabbath and keep it holy.
5. Thou shalt honor thy mother and father.
6. Thou shalt not murder.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
One through four are about our relationship with God. Five through ten are about our relationship with others. Even if we take the simplified version (a.k.a. the greatest commandment), we still have both:
Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-39)
It's sad to me that the new commandments have no regard for our relationship with God. Ultimately, the 10 commandments are not just about how we treat people. Their purpose is to restore our relationships and keep them intact. The laws are meant to restore us to the created order where we were in right relationship with God (read: not disobedient) and in right relationship with one another (read: not ashamed or sinful). The law isn't just about what to do or what not to do. Sure, it can seem that way at first glance and there are an awful lot of instructions, but ultimately the instructions are the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is restoration of right relationships, both with God and with neighbor. So, any new version of the commandments that does not make room for our relationship with God is wrongheaded. They negate, deny, or simply forget that we have a broken relationship with God that needs healing. They also become consumed with the letter of the law (much like the Pharisees did) and lead down a treacherous road of right and wrong that has nothing to do with the spirit of the law--restored/healed/redeemed relationships.