“And God spoke all these words saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’” Exodus 20:1-3
One thing I love about camp is that you never, ever see people walking down the road on their phones, or sitting at the table on their phones, or ever on their phones. Because phones aren’t allowed at camp, we talk to each other instead - and that’s why camp is so wonderful!
I remember being so confused when, as a first time counselor, Laura was explaining the “camp game.” If you’ve heard her opening day speech before, you know what I’m talking about- she stands up on the stage in the pavilion and explains the rules of camp. If you’re abiding by the rules of camp, you’re playing the “camp game.” Of course, one of these rules is that cell phones aren’t allowed. Why does Laura say that? Is it because she hates cell phones? Is it because she wants to sabotage your high score on Candy Crush? Is it because she wants you to have a million notifications by the end of the session? No way! Laura, and the rest of Head Staff, won’t let you have your cell phone at camp because doing camp without a phone is the best way to enjoy camp and have the best possible experience.
For years and years, I thought of God’s Commandments as a checklist - do this, this, and this, and you’ll be happy and have everything you want and need. Recently, though, I’ve been realizing that the Commandments are much more like the camp game.
They’re instructions for how abundant life is supposed to work; the way that the Lord intended us to live. Just like having your phone at camp would make camp #theworst, the Lord doesn’t want us to do certain things because he knows that they would make our lives #theworst. Sometimes, we think that the freedom to do whatever we want is the best thing that can happen. We crave the ability to pick which rules to follow and just throw the rest away. As it turns out, life doesn’t work best that way. If we just do whatever we want and don’t live within the parameters God sets up for us, we end up feeling trapped under the weight of our sin.
This doesn’t mean, though, that if we try really really hard, we can keep all of his Commandments. We can’t! If we could, we wouldn’t really need Jesus to make things right. But because we have failed - and will fail - we rely on Jesus to make us right with God.
In fact, that’s exactly what God says before He even gives His people His Commandments. In Exodus 20:2, He says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the Land of slavery.” He is telling His people that He brought them out of slavery because He loves them, and He doesn’t want them to become slaves to their sin.
He didn’t intend for the Commandments to become a checklist. He wanted them to help us live in the freedom of knowing Him. He made them because He wanted us to have abundant, John 10:10 life.