Rules for the Relationship

Michael Wittmer

READ : Deuteronomy 5:6-21

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (v. 6)

In Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Misérables, the legalistic policeman Javert relentlessly tracks the ex-con Jean Valjean. Despite Valjean’s valiant efforts to save the poor, most notably the orphan Cosette, Javert is obsessed with capturing Valjean for a minor violation of his parole. Javert misunderstands the role of rules, and what he regards as righteous is actually wrong.

Unlike Javert, God’s law is grounded in love. The Ten Commandments are not random rules from a whimsical deity, but are precisely the parameters of behavior within which God’s children will thrive and prosper. God wants us to flourish, and he gave his law to show us how. People who worship God alone, honor those in authority, are faithful to their spouses, and respect the lives, property, and reputation of others will enjoy peaceful, productive lives. Those who don’t are going against the grain of the universe, and they are bound to pick up splinters.

Still, even God’s law can be twisted to our harm, whenever we allow the rules to become more important than the relationships they are designed to serve. Never confuse an obsession for rules-keeping with a hunger for righteousness (remember Javert!). God’s bottom line is love.


Father, I love your law, for it instructs me how to love others.