Throughout the Scriptures the Lord tells his disciples that they need to follow the Ten Commandments. Further, the Lord is clear that the highest and greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. In those readings the Lord is also clear that to love our neighbors as ourselves is to follow and live out the Ten Commandments in our relationships with others.
Towards the end of his ministry the Lord makes a statement that we should spend some time reflecting on: “All this I tell you that my Joy may be yours and your Joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) The Lord is saying that living out the Ten Commandments, loving our neighbors as ourselves, will give us Joy—the greatest joy we can obtain. Why is this so? After all, the world says that one cannot be happy living according to the Ten Commandments: they are too restrictive, or goes against our nature.
To answer the above question one must see and understand the true nature and purpose of the Commandments. The Ten Commandments have two parts: laws that protect our relationship to God, and laws that protect our relationship with others. Further, those laws that protect and guide our relationship with others also guide our relationship with ourselves.
The first Commandment—I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other God’s before me—is a statement of fact that there is only one God that we can have a relationship with. Idolatry, in all its often subtle forms, is to be avoided because there can be no relationship with gods who do not exist. This God being the source of all Holiness must be revered above all and his Holiness must not be diminished by our saying otherwise in word or in action. Thus we cannot, if we are truthful about God, take his name in vain by either word of action. In truthful reverence of God all is set aside on the Sabbath for the worship of God. If one lives these laws, and does so from the heart, then one’s relationship to God will be the primary relationship in that person’s life.
The next set of laws are about our relationship to others. We honor our father and mother because we are communal beings who need to live in a human community of love. The opposite of adultery is the establishment of our own family community. The love we learn and live in our families is then extended to the larger community through respecting the fact that they too are God’s children meant to love and serve the one true God who is himself the author of life. Further the extended community we live in requires that we respect the means of livelihood of others—not stealing or being envious of their goods. Finally our love of neighbor requires a truthful honesty and justice towards them; false witness can only destroy our relationship with others. The purpose of these laws is to make it possible for us to have a loving relationship with God and with others. Notice that these rules also describe the character we are to shape and mold within ourselves. When we do just things, we not only become people whose character it is to live honestly and justly, we become people who wants to revere God, keep the Sabbath Holy, etc.
Many outside the Church would say that the Ten Commandments are rules that can be accepted or not accepted, and that community can be built on other rules. However, wherever one finds a community that is based on love, friendship and the good of the other, one finds that the Ten Commandments are being lived. One finds a community that recognizes a God that is love and God that is relationship, who created us for relationship with him and with others. And it is in those relationships that our joy is complete.