Authority and the House

Packed into all of the Ten Commandments is an entire worldview. Here is a whole understanding, not just for morality, but for how the entire cosmos and our own lives work. Understand this, and you won’t be able to read these commands the same way ever again. Fail to understand this and you’ll simply see a rather arbitrary-seeming list of ethical commands. 

We’ve been trained to think of the world as largely a blank canvas with biology and morality and religion and culture as simply socially and evolutionarily constructed paintings put upon that canvas.  The Bible presents a world and all of its integrative relationships as having an actual order to them. They were made a certain way, they were designed a certain way. We can submit to that order or kick against that order, but the fundamental way that the world is, well, that’s not really up for debate or transformation. Kicking against the way the world is designed is foolishness and sin. It’s sin because it rebels against God’s rule. It’s foolishness because we can’t fundamentally change the way that the world or its constitutive relationships work - they will always work that way. We can either run with the grain, living as obedient creatures and enjoying a world created, and thereby ordered by God or we can run against the grain, rebel against both what God has commanded and what God has designed and find ourselves running against the walls of His house over and over again. 

Consider that the world is a house built by God. It has walls and rooms and hallways and electrical outlets and some furniture. It isn’t a blank slate. It isn’t an empty lot. It's a house. It has walls that are already in place. God puts us in the house to live, to enjoy, and maybe to decorate the place. He tells us how to live in the house. Gives us a nice map of how things are laid out - where the walls are, where the sinks are. We do two different kinds of wrongs in this house. We disobey and we try and tear down the walls. God tells us to flush the toilet when we use it. We refuse to flush the toilet. On the other hand he puts a wall there. We don’t like that wall there. We want to move the wall. Problem is, we can’t move the wall. So we pretend it isn’t there and then proceed to run into the wall over and over and over again, blood running down our face, insisting that the wall isn’t really there. 

When people talk about tearing down the patriarchy, this is what is largely happening. There are all sorts of reasons for hating that wall, for wanting to get rid of it. There truly are really terrible men, really terrible fathers. They have authority and wield that authority in ways that are a direct insult to the God whose authority they represent. But instead of simply naming this rebellion and calling these particular fathers and husbands and senators and presidents to repentance, we say that the problem is the wall - the structure - when the real problem is the particularly bad men. On the other hand, there is such a thing as a deep hatred of God - particularly a God who is the Father. That wall is a regular reminder of the God we hate and so we meaninglessly bring sledgehammers and crow bars to beat against the wall (Why do the nations rage… He who sits in the heavens laughs… Psalm 2)

When we come to the 5th Commandment we are confronted with a command that calls us to honor a particular design feature of creation. It instructs us to live in line with the grain of the universe. And it assumes that fundamental to the structure of the world is the concept of authority. Parents, good or bad, represent that structure to us. They are the clearest most in-your-face example of how God made the world. He commands us to honor that structure. In other words, don’t run your head against the wall. And the brilliance of God in giving us this command is that it works both ways. It calls us, all of us as children, to honor authority and how it works - all the way up to our Father in Heaven. And it calls mothers and fathers to the same sort of honor- all authority is designed to reflect authority all the way up - to our Father.  We live at the long end of a rebellion against authority in all of its expressions - because we think that authority is the problem rather than sin. Which is to say, we think the Father is the problem, not us. 

We’ve been trying to remodel the house since the beginning, but God made the house good, very good. The problem isn’t the house or the walls or the placement of the electrical outlets. The problem is sinful men, sinful women, and our relationship with the Home-Owner.