A popular megachurch pastor says the Ten Commandments no longer apply and that Christians instead should focus on – and perhaps even post – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Andy Stanley, author of the new book Irresistible and pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia, asserts in a new column for Relevant that Jesus’ commandment in John 13:34 (“love one another”) replaced the Ten Commandments and old covenant.
“Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of commands,” Stanley wrote.
“The early church moved past the old covenant – why haven’t we?” Stanley asked.
Debates over the public display of the Ten Commandments, he said, are unnecessary.
“You’ve heard the story before: A group of Christians puts up a monument of the Ten Commandments in a public space or on government property,” Stanley wrote. “Someone says it violates the separation of church and state. The Christians say taking it down would violate their freedom of speech. There’s some back and forth in court and both sides say some not-so-great things about the other. Rinse and repeat.”
“But how many times,” Stanley asked, “have you seen Christians trying to post the text of the sermon on the mount in a public place? Or the all-encompassing commandment Jesus gave us?”
Stanley quoted John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
He called it the “one commandment”
“Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But if we’re going to create a monument to stand as a testament to our faith,” Stanley wrote, “shouldn’t it at least be a monument of something that actually applies to us?”
Jesus may have been “foreshadowed in the old covenant,” Stanley wrote, but “he did not come to extend it.”
“He came to fulfill it, put a bow on it, and establish something entirely new,” Stanley wrote. “...The author of Hebrews says it best. Jesus was the ‘guarantor of a better covenant’ (Hebrews 7:22). Later he writes, ‘the new covenant is established on better promises.’”
Reaction to Stanley’s column was mixed.
“People stick the ten commandments in front of others with the subtext, 'you need to change,’” wrote one person on Relevant’s Facebook page who agreed with Stanley. “With the Sermon on the Mount, I am the one who needs to radically change. Changing is so much harder than judging others.”
Some said Stanley was flirting with the heresy of Marcionism, which taught that Christians should reject the Old Testament and that the God of the two testaments was different.
“The modern popularity of these 10 commandment statues started with a Hollywood movie promotion,” one person wrote, referencing the Charlton Heston film. “... And also Andy Stanley whom I admire greatly and have learned a lot from is getting closer to Marcionism with his new covenant/old covenant dichotomy. At least it reads that way.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.