FROM THE PULPIT; Who Obeys the Ten Commandments?; Can God's Ancient Rulebook Guide Us through Today's World?

Article excerpt

We all learned the Ten Commandments at school. But in today's modern world, where Sunday working is becoming the norm and God's name is a common swear word, are the Commandments just more laws to be broken?

Sister Deirdre Mullan is a teacher at Derry's Thornhill College and a cross-community worker. She believes people must learn to love their neighbour before they can live the commandments.

THE Ten Commandments can be recited off by heart in meaningless monologue by anyone.

Alternatively, the spirit of the commandments can be lived through a posture of openness and tolerance in humanity.

We can also live through the Ten Commandments with a willingness to compromise.

But in the end, what is important is summed up in the words of the prophet Micah: "This is what God asks of you, only this: To act justly. To love tenderly. To walk humbly with your God."

We are told by Matthew 22:34 that the most important of the Ten Commandments is: "Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. "This is the first and greatest commandment.

"And the second commandment is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."

I have often wondered what it means in real life to be able to love my neighbour as myself.

God became a human being and lived among us. His love means that we need to take ourselves seriously as human beings.

A book I read recently sums up what I think the Ten Commandments mean in today's society.

The book, written by Rabbi Michael Lerner, is called How Can I find God?

Rabbi Lerner suggests that we treat other human beings as if we believed they were created in the image of God. To recognise them as being precious, unique and wonderful. We need to recognise, most of all, what we all share in common with one another - our capacities for love, caring, intelligence, freedom, creating beauty and responding to the glory of the universe.

Rabbi Lerner believes we should promote tenderness and gentleness throughout all our interactions with each other, and try to find strategies for people who are always blaming themselves and feeling unworthy.

We should fill the world with loving energy and build societies filled with people who are compassionate towards each other and those who feel they are not part of that society.

That compassion should spread out in every direction - inward towards one's self and toward one's parents and friends, and outward towards those who appear to be on the outside.

Rabbi Lerner adds: "We should raise children and teach them that there is power in the universe that makes healing and transformation possible.

"This power permeates all beings, and is the one that is the unity of all.

"Whenever you look at any reality, acknowledge the God energy.

"Never accept reality as it is, because that is the ultimate idolatry. Instead, always affirm to yourself the way the world should, and could be different, and help make that happen."

I believe that everyone has something to give to society. I also believe that most of us do try to live out the Ten Commandments as best we can in the community as we go about our daily business. But Love of God, Love of Neighbour and Love of Self, lived out in the community, can be a daunting and a challenging experience.

In his poem, Prayer before Birth, the poet Louis MacNeice prays: "Fill me with strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into legal automation, would make me a cog in the machine, a thing with one face.

"Let them not make me a stone, and let them not spill me.

"Otherwise kill me."

The Reverend Ginnie Kennerley, a Church of Ireland rector in Timolin, Co Kildare, believes the commandments are society's best rules which govern acceptable behaviour. …