Living in harmony is essential to survival. That’s why God gave us laws about how to treat each other. Looking at the last five commandments, in Exodus 20:13-17, each begins, “You shall not…”. Murder, theft, adultery, lies and wanting what other people have are absolute no-no’s. Just don’t. God knew that his tiny new nation needed good cohesion if they were to survive in a harsh environment, with many other tribes and nations highly interested in their demise. To have any chance of succeeding, they had to stick together. In-fighting would be detrimental and so any likely cause had to be strictly forbidden.
Nothing much has changed in the world today, that would make these commandments any less useful now, and they are more or less enshrined in modern law, give or take some complicated phraseology.
And the Church needs to heed it too. Jesus did not abolish the law, but he did refine it. He needed his tiny bunch of followers to hang together to survive, but even more, he needed them to demonstrate what the very best of all lifestyles looks like. Even being angry or disrespectful was totally unacceptable (Matthew 6:21-22). It was pretty much summed up in the word ‘love’. A community that loved each other, looked out for each other, and so attracted others to it.
But Jesus was a realist too. He knew it needed a lot more than simply teaching an ideal. He knew that people are naturally selfish. He chose to die, to pay the price for their shortfalls, so that the Holy Spirit could come and indwell them, and empower them to live this wonderful life he’d taught and demonstrated. If we are filled with his Spirit, then we do have the power to live like Jesus lived, and love like Jesus loved. Anger, disrespect, gossip, behaving inappropriately… just don’t! If that sounds over-challenging, then we have taken our eye off the ball of all that Jesus commanded, wanted for us, and died for. He has given us the power to live right; if he says we can, then we can.