Refocus: The Second Table

How many times have you been sitting at work, only to realize that you don’t remember showering, dressing, and driving that morning? I have realized more recently how common it is to conduct daily routines without even remembering how they were accomplished. Due to so many changes in my regular schedule, I have been finding more interest in seemingly mundane activities that otherwise would have been forgotten throughout the course of a normal day. I’m a person who tends to enjoy the journey that exists in normal activities, rather than just the accomplishment of the task, but even driving to the store seems like a small adventure right now.

Hopefully, this social distancing we’re experiencing in the COVID-19 environment will cause some changes in our thinking. Hopefully, it will cause us to reorganize and re-prioritize what we see as valuable, causing us to reorient our lives around what really matters. As we see the entire world freaking out about the implications for the economy, maybe we’ll realize that people are what is important, not all those devices and gadgets with which we surround ourselves. Maybe a person will be valued more than a job or success. For Christians, we are given a priority by which we should be organizing our lives. The concept is fairly simple in explanation: We are to treat God as king and love others as we love ourselves, but living it out is not so simple. We tend to be self-centered. We treat God and others as if their value is dependent upon their contribution to our lives or success.

What does it look like for Christians to fulfill the command to love our neighbor as ourselves? We get a picture of this in a proper understanding of the ten commandments given to Moses. Probably the best analysis of what this means for us today is found in the writings of the Reformer, Martin Luther.

Martin Luther divided the Ten Commandments into two sections: the First Table and the Second Table. The First Table is how we are to relate to God and consists of the first three commandments. The Second Table is how we are to relate to our neighbor and consists of the remaining seven commandments. I will only focus on Luther’s Second Table here. As stated earlier, Luther believed our neighbors to be every one of our fellow men. So, commandments four through ten (the Second Table) demonstrate how Christians should be living in relationship to all people with whom we interact.

Christians are to honor and respect all authority God has placed over us by treating the people with whom we interact with dignity. This includes parents, teachers, and other superiors. We should care about the lives and well-being of others, refusing to treat them angrily in a way that would cause physical or emotional harm.  Believers should be faithful to their spouses and guard themselves against entertaining all impure thoughts.  We should be truthful in all our dealings with the property and business of our neighbors, while demonstrating praise for others who succeed where we may not.  Christians are not to betray, slander, gossip, lie, or present their neighbors in any negative light, but should hope for the best and defend their reputations. We should desire success for our neighbors and seek after God, rather than be jealous of another person’s lifestyle or possessions. Believers should guard themselves against causing division in a marriage and between a person and her/his employees or coworkers through action or conversation, as well as hope for the success of their businesses.  While Luther acknowledges that we are unable to attain a perfect life, he says that Christians should strive to live according to God’s plan.

The manner in which God has called us to live is vastly different than the self-seeking, performance-oriented system into which the world likes to box us. Like all of us, I have fallen into this cycle far too many times. Imagine what the difference would be if we were a worldwide group of people who treated others at least as well as we treat ourselves? During this time of upset to our normal routine, I pray that we will have the willingness to examine our lives and re-prioritize, reorganize, and reorient around what has actual value: God and others.

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