* to encourage a reasoned awareness of how our beliefs impact the way we interact with the world around us
* to foster intelligent and open dialogue
* to inspire a sense of spirituality that has real meaning in day-to-day life

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rewriting Exodus 20-23: Divine Guidance without Attempting to Control the Masses

Lest we completely dismiss these initial laws of Moses for being misguided or naive, it's worth remembering that Moses is an incredible example of a person doing his best to follow the guidance of his divine self.  His weaknesses come out, but he's in a vulnerable and visible position.  He gets frustrated with the people he's leading, but anyone would.  Whether the biblical depiction of Moses is historically accurate or pure fabrication, he serves as a model of connection with his divine character.  Thus, there is bound to be some value in the direction he attempted to give the Israelites through laws.

When we take away the threat of death and look at these laws as words of guidance rather than punishable offenses, we can see some remarkable and noteworthy ideas.  In a sense, the punishment for ignoring this guidance is that we are less happy and engaged in life than we could be.  Perhaps living a life of misery is worse than death for some people.  The reward for following this guidance, though, is a more fulfilling life.  Deeper connection with ourselves and with other people.  A more purposeful, intentional, and meaningful existence.  Later in the Bible, Jesus sums it all up by directing people to love God and love their fellow human beings.  There may be some value at starting from the thoroughness of Moses before getting to the broad summary, though.

Beginning with Exodus 20:  The divine within you is worth acknowledging.  Don't put the deep truth you know aside for the persuasive words of another.  Rather, allow wisdom from outside of your self to temper your awareness and understanding of the inspiration and truth and beauty within you.  This is easiest to do if you spend time becoming aware of your divine character.  Remember that you have value, that you are worth spending time on.  If there is anything that can be called "holy," you are holy.  Treat yourself that way.

Listen to the wisdom of your parents without obligation or entitlement.  They have lived through experiences that you will never have.  They have walked through fires that you will never know.  And yet, they cannot live your life for you.  You must ultimately walk your own path and make your own decisions.

Respect human life more than your own anger.  Your anger can never justify taking another person's life.  Value the trust that other people place in you.  You ultimately suffer when you commit acts of betrayal, no matter how well you know the person or what they have done to you.  If you want something, pay for it honestly.  That may mean making some difficult financial decisions, but that process also brings clarity about what matters most to you. 

Tell the truth.  If you speak about yourself or about someone else, be honest.  Recognize that everyone lives through a different set of circumstances and values.  Value what you have and celebrate what those around you have.  We can always find flaws and disappointments in our own circumstances, and the people we are tempted to envy can find flaws and disappointments in their lives.  Envy robs us of fully appreciating what we have.      

Embrace personal responsibility.  You are responsible for your life, and you are accountable for your actions.  Blaming other people or bemoaning your lot in life won't change anything.  You are the one at the helm of your own decisions.  Should you do something that brings harm to another person, be honest about it and face the consequences.  More importantly, strive to avoid doing harm in the first place. 

As you become more aware of your own divine character, remember that everyone possesses within them that same deep sense of truth, beauty, and creativity.  Even when you have a hard time respecting a person's actions or decisions, at least respect that there is something of that divine character somewhere within them.  If it makes you holy, then they are likewise holy and worth being treated as such. 

You won't be punished with death if you don't do these things.  Going against your own divine character is punishment in and of itself.  I'll restate, though, that the reward for following this guidance is a more fulfilling life.  Deeper connection with yourself and with other people.  A more purposeful, intentional, and meaningful existence.  Something truly sacred.

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