Rules shape the community

We may live in the land of liberty, but that does not mean we are free to do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it. There are rules we refer to as laws that govern how we are to live within our geographical area. There are laws at the national level, but also at the state, county, and city levels. These rules were drafted to maintain order and fairness within our society. However, these are not the only mandates that shape interactions in our daily lives.

My previous company had required its employees to review the policies through a computer-based learning course each year. During the training, several scenarios were presented as a what-would-you-do-in-this-situation, allowing employees to think about words and actions that might be used. The training also underlined that since every offensive scenario cannot be presented, it was important to live in the “spirit” of the policy. I remember as I took the course thinking that most of the training moments would be covered under the 10 Commandments. By living my faith, I would also be living within the guidelines of the company’s policies. It struck me as odd that a company would need to teach these basic rules. However, as many people don’t participate in an organized religion that would teach these basics, it’s up to other communal organizations to identify what they value most to unite the people under a general structure of mutual respect.

During the first week at my new company, I took their training courses. Here again, I’ve found that if I live my faith, my words and actions will comply with the identified framework. The net result of both companies’ policies may be the same (don’t steal, report illegal activity, treat people well, etc.), but the actual wording of each policy conveys a vastly different approach that might shape those who are ruled by it. The previous company took a legal approach in their policies and in their training. It was pointed out that even if something wasn’t specifically mentioned as being wrong, the company could evaluate a given situation to determine that the rules had been broken. In my new company, the guidelines are more casual in their wording and convey a sense of guidance rather than discipline for errant behavior. As a result, the rules are often quoted and used as reasonings for a particular decision. Each month the company leadership highlights a particular rule, diving deeper into what it means to live that rule and examples of the rule in use that provided for a greater good. 

I would guess that many Catholics use the 10 Commandments, expressed as they are in  more of a legal don’t do list, in preparation for confession. I’m not sure they think much more of them. However, the very first Psalm exhorts us to delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2). While we can certainly do this with the 10 Commandments, I think the beatitudes that Jesus taught would align more with the attitude my new company has for its rules. We can’t go wrong choosing to be merciful towards others or bringing peace to an uncomfortable situation, as Jesus says those who live this way will be blessed. 

Rules do, indeed, shape our community — from where we live, to how we work, and every aspect of our lives. The words used to craft the framework also illustrate how they will be utilized: either as a hammer to punish when one strays, or as a guiding beacon to go beyond the minimum required, by reason and choice, to live the guidance the rules provide.

Catholic Girl Journey

Pondering the law

As I was reading my daily Magnificat recently, a passage from the first psalm caught my attention, “He who ponders the law of the Lord day and night will yield his fruit in due season.” (Ps 1:2-3). How can one ponder the law? One either knows it, or they don’t, what’s there to think about? So I began to ponder what it means to ponder the law.

What really is the law? While that could be a whole topic for a post, I like the way Sonja Corbitt explains it in her Fulfilled series. Within the Old Testament, there are three types of laws: first moral or natural laws — like the 10 Commandments, second ceremonial laws — like how to celebrate Passover, and third judicial laws that govern the civil actions. While the latter two can change, the one type of law that cannot change is the moral law. I think it is this law that we are meant to ponder.

Ponder is a verb of action; it is purposeful and intentional. One makes a choice to ponder. If someone is to ponder a list of dos and don’ts, at first glance it may sound like a useless way to spend time. However, if you start to think about why those laws are important, you begin to realize that they are not just arbitrary rules to restrict your activities, but rather they are guidelines for how to live as a child of God. They are guidelines because we are supposed to go deeper than the surface definition. For example, you shall not kill certainly means not taking the physical life of another, but it also means not damaging any part of their total being: body, mind, or soul.

Reflecting on God’s moral laws is not a once-and-done action, rather we are meant to ponder them  over a lifetime in three ways: to know, to keep, and to love. While many have learned the 10 Commandments as a child, a periodic refreshing of our memory by prayerfully reading Exodus (chapter 20) can help us go deeper into their meaning. As our understanding of the nuances of the law grows, we must review how we are living our lives according to those laws. It’s not enough to intellectually know the law, we must also keep it by making decisions and choices that are in alignment. Over time, loving the law will come as we practice knowing and keeping the laws. We see the value of the laws as an expression of love towards God and all of His creation, leading us to looking deeper to know and to keep the laws better than we have in the past.

Meditating on God’s law for us is a tool He gave us to draw us into a closer relationship, not only with Him, but also with each other.  We can be sure our efforts will bear fruit, both in this life and in the next.