Q. Why does our denomination place so much emphasis on the Ten Commandments and so little on the Beatitudes?
A. At the time of the Reformation, virtually all catechisms had three main pillars that catechumens were expected to know: The Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. For example, at least 37 of the Heidelberg Catechism’s 52 Lord’s Days deal with those three texts. Such emphasis was not given to the Beatitudes.
Very early in our church history the Ten Commandments were used in worship in a way consistent with their use in the Catechism. At Synod 1930 an advisory committee observed, “God presents his law to [his people] as the rule of life for a people thankful for their redemption” (Acts of Synod 1930, p. 166). The committee, objecting to a new order of worship adopted by Synod 1928, observed that in the new order, “The law comes to [God’s people] to convict them of sin” (Acts of Synod 1930, p. 166).”
Though Synod 1930 dropped the new order of worship, many churches began to use the Ten Commandments as teachers of sin, followed by a song of penitence and an assurance of pardon. Today a number of churches have reclaimed the Reformed use of the law by using the Ten Commandments as guides for grateful living, following a prayer of confession and an assurance of pardon. The Beatitudes and other Scripture passages could be used at this point as well.
—George Vander Weit
George Vander Weit is The Banner’s former Q&A editor. He is pastor of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q. My mom doesn’t like the way I dress, but if I don’t dress this way my friends give me a hard time. Help!
A. I’m assuming this question comes from a young woman concerned about her mom’s reaction to a bare midriff or slightly revealed cleavage. But my answer applies to anyone who is aware their dress speaks to others.
The easy, pious answer is to dress plainly, simply, and modestly and not worry about your friends. However, I’d venture readers, especially young ones, would snort at that and turn the page.
I love a great dresser. One of my favorite young style icons at Calvin College, where I work, dresses with flair. Here’s a recent outfit: a form-fitting hoodie over a lacy T-shirt topping a fringed miniskirt, legs completely covered by tights, striped knee socks, and low-heeled suede boots. She looks great, doesn’t flaunt any skin, and takes great pride in having paid less than $50 for the whole outfit, boots included. She’s a sharp Goodwill shopper.
So here’s my challenge to contemporary Christians in North American culture: dress to praise God. God didn’t make a world of only sparrows, sheep, mules, and workhorses. God also created toucans, peacocks, aardvarks, and zebras. Whether you’re female or male, creativity in what you wear can take its cue from God’s creation, where elements of style include color, showing rather than hiding the contours of the body (steering a wise course between skin-tight and baggy), variety in pattern, and dressing without too much obsessing.
Dr. Helen Sterk is chair of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich. She’s a mom of two teenagers and is not a trained theologian—just an enthusiastic amateur.
Q. I come from an abusive family back ground and it still haunts me, especially when I’m told I must forgive. How can I do that when the person who abused me denies it ever happened?
A. People often confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. It’s impossible to reconcile with a person who does not acknowledge having caused you pain. Forgiveness, however, is between you and God. God invites you to cancel the abuser’s debt to you, just as God canceled your debt of sin. When you forgive such a debt you stop having to concern yourself with it. Canceling that debt lets you release the anger and bitterness you naturally felt and harbored at the injustices you received. Forgiveness can set you free from the pain of the past. It may be impossible to reconcile and establish a relationship with the person who abused you, but forgiveness lets you reclaim the energy you needed to manage the bad feelings associated with the debt owed; it lets you focus on what is important in your life now.
Judy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario.
You’sre right, this page used to be called “Q&A.” We’ve broadened it by asking a panel of writers to answer questions they hear frequently in their respective fields. George Vander Weit has graciously agreed to stay on as our guru of church-related matters. Please send your questions about Christian faith and life to FAQs at The Banner, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560, or to email@example.com with “FAQs” in the subject line. We’ll keep them confidential and assign them to our panel.