“You have commanded that your precepts be diligently kept. Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes!...Be good to your servant, that I may live and keep your words. Open my eyes, that I may consider the wonders of your law.” [Psalm 119: 4-5, 17-18]
The precepts of God are the foundation of our relationship with God. A precept is a rule of behavior—a principle that guides all actions. The Ten Commandments are one list of principles from which we derive most of our Christian moral guidance. Think of the Commandments as the foundation of our moral structure. We can build up other walls and safeguards to help us obey these commandments more fully, but they must be built upon the foundation of the Commandments to be part of the structure.
Jesus gives us a number of examples of such safeguards in this Sunday’s Gospel passage from Matthew Chapter 5, the “Sermon on the Mount”. For example, Jesus goes beyond “Thou shalt not commit adultery” to declare: “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus draws our attention to the interior motivations that lead to outright adultery. Right conduct springs from right relationship, and if we are relating to our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus as brothers and sisters, then we will not even begin down the path of lust; we love our brother or sister too much to mistreat them so. We align our conduct to the principle of fraternity in Christ, not simply to the rule “thou shalt not…” In other words, we are not trying to get away with whatever sin we can within the strict limits of the law; we are loving the Lawgiver enough to avoid coming anywhere near to offending Him. We are within the walls of our moral structure, safe from the storms of sin without.
Lent is just around the corner, so this is a good time for us to consider what relationships or precepts might be out of alignment or neglected in our lives. Is there some foundational truth to which I need to give extra attention to make my family holy? Is there some obligation or inclination of my heart that needs to be watered and nourished so that I might grow in personal holiness and love of God’s Law? Is there some pattern of sin revealing a disordered desire running rampant in my life? Let us take this opportunity for some spiritual Spring cleaning and shore up the foundations of our life of faith. May the heartfelt pursuit of God’s Law keep us safe from the poison of sin and lead us to life everlasting.