In today’s world with so many confusing changes taking place, life can feel very much like trying to navigate completely uncharted territory. To be able to do this with any degree of success, and avoid many problems along the way we need a moral compass or guideline to live by. So many people today feel uprooted or disconnected from the traditional values used to guide countless generations before them, leaving them with no compass to navigate these uncharted waters.
The question is:
- Where do we turn to acquire these guidelines?
- What guidelines should we consider to help us navigate today?
- Why do we need a guide to follow in the first place?
In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, in his beautiful book “Living Buddha Living Christ,” “Precepts or commandments help us to live in peace, knowing what to do, and what not to do in the present moment. They are treasures that lead us along a path of beauty, wholesomeness and truth.” He goes on to explain that our happiness and the happiness of others depends on us being responsible for our behavior and following our precepts or guidelines in order to preserve our lives, families and society from being torn apart through suffering. He suggests that living by precepts or commandments to guide us, do not limit our freedom, or force ourselves and others to follow a set of rules; but rather they give us guidelines to follow to protect us from the violence and hatred that occurs when no guidelines are practiced. Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to suggest that we study and practice the best values of our own traditions, to reach inner peace and healing in order to alleviate the suffering in ourselves and others.
Rather than simply abandoning the values of the past, why don’t we look at them with “new eyes,” and see what our faith really has to offer? If we consider why we have relied on these guidelines for protection in the past, in light of societies present chaotic conditions, we may find new value and understanding; which can help us navigate towards a more peaceful and happy life. We all share the common goals of wanting to avoid suffering, and to achieve happiness and inner peace. It is good to seek to understand others and what they believe, as that promotes compassion, and love for each other as we see our similarities, and that we are all suffering here. However it is best if we can find the guidelines for our lives today within our own traditions.
The Simple Truth of the Gospel Guidelines:
In considering Judeo-Christian values still recognized today, from the Ten Commandments, we find an excellent guide for daily life. It covers what to do, and what not to do. These guidelines were first given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai, for the Israelite people. They had just been freed from nearly 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and had no concept of how to govern themselves. The 10 Commandments were provided as this needed guideline to govern their lives by. Essentially the Ten Commandments or guidelines are as follows:
- “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Meaning: God must take precedence over all other things in your life. Make God number One!)
- “You shall not make or worship any false gods or idols.” (Meaning: Again, God must take precedence over all other things in your life. Make God number One! This one also includes a warning of dire consequences for three to four generations for those who “hate” God; and Blessings of loving-kindness shown for thousands of generations for those who “love” and follow God. )
- “Do not carry the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Meaning: Do not claim to follow God, and live a life that says otherwise; or more importantly Do not “do evil” in his name.) (Many English translations say, do not “take” the name of Lord in vain, but in Hebrew it was originally “carry.” It is also important to only use names that refer to our Creator with great love and respect.)
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath of the Lord your God.” In it, you shall not do any work.” (meaning: In celebration of God’s creation of the earth in six days, we are to also work for six days, and then take a needed rest to contemplate our beautiful spiritual heritage, and how we might better live our lives.)
- “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Meaning: To respect and appreciate your parents, and all they have given you, will add to your life in many ways.)
- “You shall not murder.” (Do not take or destroy the life of another living being.)
- “You shall not commit adultery.” (Do not have sex with someone else’s husband/wife.)
- “You shall not steal.” (Meaning: do not take something that is not yours.)
- “Do not bear false witness against another.” (Meaning: do not lie, or tell information about someone of which you are not certain to be true.)
- “Do not covet … anything that belongs to another.” (Meaning: Do not obsess over having anything that belongs to someone else. Be content with what you have.)
In addition to these guidelines, the teachings of Jesus given to his disciples greatly emphasize love and understanding. Jesus taught his followers to; “love God with all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” He went on further to define “your neighbor” as everyone. One of the most beautiful jewels given in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 13. It shows us that 4.”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no account of wrongs. 6. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. 7. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. 8. Love never fails….” 13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
To summarize the basic concepts of the Judeo-Christian faiths, the laws or 10 commandments were first given to provide a framework to live in. These guidelines show us what to do, and what not to do. When Jesus lived on earth He showed us both by his incredible life and teachings:
- What Divine Love is, & the incredible gift of how very much we are loved by God.
- He demonstrated how much our hatefulness towards one another & towards God hurts him; by the suffering he endured as he was beaten, tormented and crucified. God feels your pain and suffers with you! You are not alone!
- How following “the Way” Jesus provided, we can return to the very heart of God. Jesus paid the price, or took the punishment for all of our wrongdoing, in order to provide a way back home.
- How we can also live by loving-kindness, mercy and compassion for one another.
There is much more of incredible beauty and value to be found within the Judeo-Christian faiths. Both branches have many variations which I cannot for the sake of brevity cover here. I invite you to look further with “new eyes” for deeper and better understandings of how trusting in God can help you navigate the complexities of life, no matter what happens. I invite you to search deeper for new and personal meaning to help you find the answers you seek. Jesus said “we will find him, if we search for him with all our hearts.” The concepts of Love, Kindness, Compassion, Understanding, Forgiveness and Mercy are all here, to help you in your search for truths to live by. This “Ancient Wisdom” still applies to all that happens in our lives today.
May God bless you and guide you always, and may God’s Love always be your guide.
This post has been rewritten from its original format. I love and respect all people, and their right to believe as they choose. I am only qualified to speak about my own faith and thoughts on how it helps to guide me through this life. I will gladly leave the discussions on other faith’s to those with the qualifications to do so. Peace, Love and Light to each and all on your journey.