“Guilty of All” This Fall?
As Labor Day passes, we are aware of the leaves changing and a certain cold nip in the air. We are also aware of something else in an election year. The campaign rhetoric becomes louder. The political ads become more biting and the political discussion more heated and divisive. Nowhere is this more evident than on social media.
Facebook, originally a place to connect and reconnect with friends, has become decidedly un-friendly. Twitter, once a bastion of fresh ideas has become a cesspool of …….. Our civility has given way to incivility as unbeliever and believer alike enjoy the glorious liberty of free speech without thought or restraint or accountability on the information super-highway we call the world-wide web.
At a time like this it might be wise for all of us to remember that as followers of Jesus Christ we must give an account of ourselves to someone besides the regulatory gods of social media. Just because Facebook and Twitter accept our posts doesn’t mean they are acceptable to the One we follow. Just because our rhetoric isn’t quite as vile as those who make no claim of being Christians doesn’t mean it is kosher in God’s eyes. We answer, to borrow a phrase from Hebrew National meats, to a Higher Authority.
There is a standard to use to navigate these contentious, anything goes times especially in the realm of political discussion and even more so in terms of social media. In Romans 3:20 we find a simple standard that is both instructional and invaluable to us if we are to please our Lord during this turbulent season. It reads “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
Did you catch the standard spelled out in this verse? Let me highlight it for us: “Through the law comes the knowledge of sin”. The Law as the simple standard lets us know when we have sinned. What is being talked about here is not the laws governing free speech that our nation has or even the First Amendment that our Constitution protects. The law here is not the rules and policies set up by Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or What’s App. What is our standard? We know when we have sinned, when we are displeasing to God, when we violate the Law of God. Just so that we are clear, this Law of God that we are talking about is summarized for us in the 10 Commandments found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
Before we take a quick look at God’s Top Ten, as some have labeled the Ten Commandments, please look with me at James 2:10 which says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Ouch! If you or I break one of God’s commandments we are guilty of breaking all of them. In other words, the Law of God is like a bike chain. If I break one link of the chain, I break the whole chain. If I break one commandment of the ten, I am guilty of breaking all of them. Let me say it again. Ouch! I can’t speak for you, but I don’t want to be a “guilty of all” kind of person.
Let me try and expound and explain what I am getting at using the aforementioned Ten Commandments
In Deuteronomy 5:7 we read “You shall have no other gods before me.” So if I am so caught up in this political season that my discussions in person and my posts on social media are saturated more with politics than with Jesus I am making politics and government a god and I am guilty of idolatry. I am not just guilty of idolatry though, I am one who is “guilty of all” Because to break one of the commandments is to break all of them.
Deuteronomy 5:8 says “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” So if identify with the donkey or the elephant, with a political party or candidate or against a party or candidate, more than with a group of believers called Jesus’ Church, I have made a party or a candidate an idol and I am an idol-worshipper. I am, however, not just guilty of idol worship I am one who is “guilty of all’
The name of God was so sacred to the ancient Hebrews that they refused to write it. They got this partly from Deuteronomy 5:11. It reads “ You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” So if I am dragging the Lord’s Name into the political argument and associating His name with a political party or candidate I am taking his name in vain and I am a blasphemer, Yet I am more than that I am one who is “guilty of all”.
We probably can’t all agree on the interpretation and application of Deuteronomy 5:12 which says “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.” We should be able to agree though that pleasing God requires us to unhook and focus on Him and Him alone at some point. So if I can’t take a break for a day or two or three from the latest political fray or social media fracas I am breaking the principle of keeping a Sabbath. More than that though I am not just a Sabbath-breaker I am also one who is “guilty of all”.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16). This is the first commandment that has a positive promise attached to it. Honoring my parents means more than obeying them. It means living in such a way that they are proud or would be proud of how I am conducting myself. So then, if the way I conduct myself over the remaining 50+ days of this political season brings shame on myself and my family’s name I am both a dishonorer of my parents and one who is “guilty of all”.
The rendering of Deuteronomy 5:17 as “You shall not murder” over “You shall not kill” is probably the best translation of the words here. Jesus amplifies this idea by telling us in Matthew 5:21–22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” So then if I am so upset with the political landscape that I have come to nearly hate or actually hate someone I am both a murderer and one who is “guilty of all”.
Marital fidelity is encoded in the 10 Commandments through the words of Deuteronomy 5:18 – “And you shall not commit adultery.” There is another kind of fidelity though. It is called spiritual fidelity. That requires that I am committed to my Lord and that I never cheat on Him by falling in love with the world and its system. James proclaims to his readers “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” So then when I so assimilate with this world’s political struggle that I love a candidate or a party or a system more than my Lord, I am both an adulterer and one who is “guilty of all’.
The simple truth “And you shall not steal.” – Deuteronomy 5:19 recognizes that we can own things, that private property is a part of a civil society. It also came to mean that the God who provided for us to have property can ask us to give back to Him. When we don’t it is said that we “rob God” (Malachi 3:10) So then when we take what is rightfully God’s, financially speaking, and divert it to the systems of this world we are stealing from God. We are not just a thief then, we are also one who is “guilty of all”.
The simplicity of Deuteronomy 5:20. “And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” can be paraphrased “You shall not lie.” Thus, lying is offensive to God. So, if I knowing or unknowingly participate in spreading that which is untrue by my words or posts or reposts or tweets or retweets I am responsible. I am a liar. I am also not just a liar, I am one who is “guilty of all”.
The last commandment probably embodies the major issue associated with the political season and political campaigns. The desire for power. Deuteronomy 5:21 states “And you shall not covet….” Coveting is wanting something someone else has badly enough that I’ll do almost anything for it. So then if I am so vested in these elections that I will compromise my values, lose my friendships and sacrifice my integrity then I am probably guilty of coveting. I am, though, not just a coveter I am one who is “guilty of all”.
The point of this article is not to make us feel guilty but rather to remind us all of the standard by which guilt or innocence is measured. I am afraid that the reality that there is such a standard has been lost. Standing before a Holy God guilty and as one who is “guilty of all” because I have broken His Law is a thought that should make us tremble. Thankfully He has provided the forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:13 tells us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—. In 1 John 1:9 we read “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Though we be “guilty of all” we can be forgiven of all through Jesus Christ who died for all.
If the Ten Commandments as outlined above are too much to remember there is a shorter edition. In Matthew 22, Jesus boiled down the whole Law and all the prophets into two commandments. He said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” May our Lord give us the grace and strength to live these two amazing truths out so we do not find ourselves “guilty of all”.
In His Service,
Pastor Dave Watson