If you look at the history of the church, there have been three items that have formed the backbone of the church’s catechesis (which is just a fancy word for discipleship): the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Many of the Reformation Confessions or catecheses are based on those three things from a variety of different traditions.
For thousands of years, Christians thought, What do we do to help kids and new Christians learn about the faith? And they instinctively went to three things: the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.
We need to put obedience into the context of a response of gratitude to God who sent his son for sinners like us.
It’s really embarrassing if in our day we think we don’t need those things anymore and that we’ve come up with better ways. We absolutely ought to be teaching our children the Ten Commandments. They ought to memorize them. You may say, Well, you know, memorization doesn’t make for godly Christians. But it’s a start. You want to hide the word in your heart. Of course, the end goal is not just to recite the Bible—but that’s the starting place.
Teaching What and Why
I think Christian education programs, teachers in Christian schools, and parents ought to be teaching kids at a young age to memorize Scripture. There’s a time in kid’s lived when they’re sponges—they soak up, they want to memorize, they want to cram that stuff in. When they’re teenagers it’s not memorization that they need as much as an explanation of why things are true, why they matter, and what role they play.
So as long as we’re helping our kids to understand that the Ten Commandments are not God’s ten rules so that God will love you or ten things that you need to do every day so mommy and daddy will like you and God will love you.
Obedience as Gratitude
We need to put obedience into the context of a response of gratitude to God who sent his son for sinners like us. Our covenant God gives us these commandments so that we might live in joy and peace with him and with one another.
We shouldn’t hesitate to to remind each other of this. I do it often as a parent by reminding my children of one of the the Ten Commandments. We don’t have to reinvent anything—there’s ten of them right there and we can all memorize them.
We can help our kids understand that there are rules and there are consequences for breaking those rules. Explain them in the context of a gracious God who forgives us, who gives these to us that we might be free people. Our children will be better for knowing these commands.
The Old Testament identifies several ways in which the third commandment can be violated.
The way to find moral instruction is not by listening to your gut but by listening to God.
It’s not to the government, nor to any king or pope or any other ruler, but rather to the church that the keys of the kingdom of God are given.