Begin Free Online Ordination

The Holy BibleRelevant Magazine, a Christian lifestyle magazine geared towards Millenials, recently posted an article “Why do Christians want to post the 10 Commandments and not the Sermon on the Mount?”. Article author Andy Stanley argues that the 10 Commandments are from the old covenant, the law of Moses that modern-day Christians generally aren’t required to abide by, and thus are less relevant to modern life than New Testament passages. Indeed, there are many Old Testament laws and customs that no longer have a place in modern society. After all, we don’t sacrifice animals as they did in the Old Testament. For a less extreme example, most Christians eat pork and shrimp, two foods not allowed under Jewish laws.

Stanley is arguing that monuments that celebrate the 10 Commandments are outdated and have little relevance to modern Christians, so Christians should create monuments that actually apply to them, like the Sermon on the Mount. But is the old covenant entirely irrelevant? There are those who disagree and have suggested that the Old Testament is vital to understanding who God is and the history of Christianity.

Comparing the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount

The biggest difference is tone. The 10 Commandments were written in the negative, “thou shalt not commit adultery.” It’s one of the key differences between the two events. In the 10 Commandments, we get a picture of God that is mean and loud, not very user-friendly. God seems more distant and uncaring about individuals.

The Sermon on the Mount is spoken in the positive. Undoubtedly, the passage (also known as The Beatitudes) is one of the most beautiful in the New Testament. Most of us are probably familiar with it:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

   for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

   for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

   for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

   for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

   for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

   for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Sermon on the Mount gives people an entirely different point-of-view of God. This time, God is seen as caring, gentle, loving and compassionate. Isn’t it this God that most people want to know? While there are distinct similarities in sentiment between the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, the emotion behind them is entirely different. Stanley says that this vision of a more loving, compassionate God is more in-tune with modern-day Christianity.

The Early Church Didn’t Have the Bible as We Know It

Stanley also argues that Jesus freed Christians from the Old Testament. In the early church, the Christian followers didn’t have the scriptures as we know them. The early Christians were steeped in Jewish culture and it took many years for them to move into the framework that Jesus envisioned for the church.

But the Old Testament permeates much of what the church still does. Can we, like Stanley believes, “unhitch” from the Old Testament? Would the Psalms take on as much meaning without the laws under the old covenant? Could we appreciate the Israelites’ deliverance without understanding their traditions and tenets?

On the other hand, the moral principles of the Old Testament are vital to God’s character. Jesus referenced the Old Testament teachings time and time again throughout his ministry. Yet, he did tell his followers that he came to fulfill the old covenant and create something new.

Additionally, the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t negate the Ten Commandments. Jesus commanded his followers to love one another, which is the same message in the Ten Commandments, despite being stated in negative terms. The 10 Commandments were given to people coming out of an authoritarian situation. They’d been in captivity for generations. The phrasing of the text of the Commandments might have been to help give them as a stern, unambiguous framework in which to operate as they learned how to be free.

Imagine if Christians lived by the Sermon on the Mount instead of the laws of the Old Testament. One could derive an entire alternate history of the world by approaching periods of religious fanaticism through the more compassionate lens of the New Testament. Would the Inquisition have happened? It’s hard to imagine priests torturing who they thought were unfaithful with the words “blessed are the merciful” more prominent than “thou shalt not have any Gods before me.” Would the Salem Witch Trials have occurred? Would the Ku Klux Klan exist?

The Old Testament and New Testament are vital elements of a Christian’s faith. But understanding the historical differences between them is every Christian’s responsibility. Should Christians, as Stanley suggests, abandon the 10 Commandments because they are from the old covenant? Or is there still value in those lessons for a modern audience?

Category: Society Church

culture religion

Add Your Comment

To post a comment you must log in first.
You may alternatively login with your credentials, below.