Deuteronomy warns us that we will perish if we turn our hearts away from God; Paul tells the church at Corinth that he can’t talk to them as spiritual people because they continue to not understand what that means, they continue to be concerned with human matters and not spiritual ones, which is what the law is intended to help us do; Matthew has Jesus tell us many, kind of confusing, things that make it sound like following the law is not enough, which it isn’t because not murdering your neighbor is not the same as loving them. To love something, we need to interact with it and to truly follow the commandments of God we need to put aside our desires and our egos because all the commandments, all the laws are about relationship building, they are about putting aside the things that get in the way of the deep connection God desires for us to have with the Trinity and each other. A connection that is tied to the spiritual, not the material world of human desire and ego.
As I work with teenagers and because I have two at home, I encounter inflated egos daily. The teenage sense of entitlement is staggering to me, the tiniest thing can be twisted into a personal attack, and if they believe that you have wronged them in some way, buckle up, because you are about to be hit with the most intense barrage of circular logic you have ever experienced in your life. I think this sense of themselves stems from two sources, one is the process of transitioning from being a child to being an adult and learning to figure out everything that entails and the other is related to the emphasis our culture places on competition. I have discerned a trend in the last few years of people teaching their children that they are unique, which is fine because it is true as every part of God’s creation is unique. However, when uniqueness is combined with and corrupted by competition, we get entitlement. Uniqueness does not entitle us to dominate other people, it does not entitle us to receive better treatment, it does not entitle us to deny someone else their hope for the future; yet there are countless examples of uniqueness being mistaken for entitlement. I believe that one of the purposes of Gods commandments is to combat the idea of entitlement by asking us to build positive relationships with one another. The first four commandments are about our relationship with God. God asks us to be committed to our relationship, to set aside some time to chat, to not bad mouth God to people because we are upset that we haven’t gotten our way. The other six commandments are about our relationship with one another, but if we only focus on what is literally written in the law we are missing the point. The 4th commandment is honor your father and your mother, but what does that mean? Does it means be respectful and don’t back talk? It does mean to have respect for your parents, for the things they have done to support you. I do recognize that not all parents have supported their children, and that is unfortunate, and in those cases I would say don’t take Father and Mother so literally, replace those terms with ‘the people who have loved and supported you’ because that is what being a father or a mother is all about. The last six commandments are targeted at all the things we know are bad, like killing and stealing and we should absolutely not do these things, but if we only focus on the specifics in these situations then we are once again missing the point. It isn’t enough to just not kill your neighbor, it isn’t enough to just not steal the apple, it isn’t enough to just avoid jealousy and telling lies, it isn’t enough to just remain faithful to your partner. We have to not kill our neighbor and then talk to them; we have to not steal the apple and then share the food that we do have; we have to avoid the temptation to be jealous of our friends iPhone and be grateful for the things we do have; we have to avoid telling lies and then speak out when we see someone else doing it; we have to remain faithful to our partners and then show them why we are. We are not entitled to take a life, no matter how justified we think we may be; we are not entitled to anything another person has; we are not entitled to anything except God’s love.
Believing that we are entitled to anything other than God’s love does nothing but interfere with our ability to experience God’s love. God’s sole desire is to have a loving, spirit filled relationship will all of creation and it is our love affair with our uniqueness and how that defines us that gets in the way because by focusing on our uniqueness we are emphasizing the importance of one and not the importance of all. As difficult as it can be to work and live with egomaniac teenagers, I do so because I have hope that they will change, and most of them will and if they don’t I will not worry about it because it is not my job to change them, it is only my job to have a relationship with them where I strive to model what it means to have a deep and meaningful relationship with other people, to show them that life is not about things, or jobs, or money even though everything around them is stressing that it is. Those things are of our own making, they are simply the things we use to distract ourselves from God. Life is about people, it is about relationships, and everything that is written in the law and everything that Jesus taught points us in that direction; they point us to building relationships that foster love for creation, love for people, and love for God; but in order for those relationships to grow we must rid ourselves of the idea that our uniqueness entitles us anything other than Gods love because only then will we be ready to enter the kingdom of God.