Law of Love
'I the Lord your God am a jealous God…showing steadfast love to the thousandth
generation of those who love me and keep my commandments’ (Exodus 20.5-6).
Welcome to the eighth God on Monday reflection on ‘purpose’!
A golden rule in marketing is to be concise. A product or service may offer a host of features and benefits. But its value to potential customers needs to be communicated succinctly. The bible contains hundreds of commandments; according to Jewish tradition, they total 613. But in the so-called decalogue, they are condensed down to ten. And when Jesus gives them a makeover, they are contracted yet further to two: love for God, and love for neighbour (Mk 12.30-31). Or even to one: ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Mt 7.12) – the Golden Rule itself.
But what was God’s purpose in giving people commandments? Knowing this may help us know what the purpose might be of obeying them. Two passages of scripture are particularly relevant. In Deuteronomy 4.5-9, the purpose of the Torah’s laws was that non-Israelites would come to see, in the lives of those who embraced them, the wisdom and greatness of God. In Galatians 3.19-26, the laws are given to lead people to Christ, in whom all God’s promises are fulfilled.
These two purposes provide a clue as to the value of the bible’s commandments to the contemporary workplace. First, it is not the detail of those ancient laws that matters but the values they embody. Second, when those values are put into practice, they take on an ‘evangelical’ purpose – people are attracted to the God who initiates and upholds them. Third, the human propensity to fail in keeping God’s laws predisposes them to receive God’s grace.
With this background, it is unsurprising that the ten commandments have played a crucial role in the liturgies, catechisms and teachings the Christian churches. That is, until relatively recently. In more recent decades, I have found them more readily discussed and applied in business circles.
In one of three such circles in which I have been involved, an attempt has even been made to draw up a business code that reflects the decalogue’s core values. It includes ensuring honest communication; regular rest; the dignity of the individual; the correct use of resources; and the honouring of property rights. It has been a joy to see businesses starting to embody such values. When they do, they begin to live the law of love and catch a vision of what on earth they are here for.
Peter S Heslam, Director, Faith in Business