These are just personal thoughts I’m sharing. They are based off the work by Michael Dallen called “The Rainbow Covenant”. There are still a lot of positive teachings I get from that book. It is also spoken of in Rabbi Ginsburg’s webpage, http://www.inner.org.
Sometimes it’s easy for me to oversimplify things as they relate to God’s seven commandments for Gentiles. Sometimes I limit them too much focusing only on the fact that there are basically seven prohibitions, seven “do nots”. Now it’s not wrong to say that they are seven prohibitions because Jewish tradition overtly says that; positive commands are not counted amongst the seven basic commandments.
But it has been often said by different teachers of the Noahide Commandments that the Seven Laws are the minimum, the bedrock platform from which humanity can cultivate and create a world to be inhabited in, a decent civilisation. But in what ways can we push forward and go higher, not just be innocent of breaking the basics, but also to be pious, upstanding and upright? The commandments help shape our behaviour and connect us with the truth of the Commander of those laws, but how does a person encourage growth from the basics?
“How does a young man cleanse his way before God? By heeding to his Law?” Psalm 119.
It is said that from a negative one can infer a positive; from a prohibition one can derive an ideal. So the fact that our basic obligations are “do nots” are by no means limitations, but gateways to becoming better people and making a difference.
I normally prefer the Talmudic ordering of the seven commands so I’ll go through each one and give my opinion on positive ideals or actions based on each of the prohibitions.
Refraining from injustice: Fear God, the Ultimate Judge Who sees, knows and judges all. Learn the details of the commandments and their offshoots so that one can be aware when something wrong is done and to protect oneself from doing wrong.
Refraining from cursing God’s name: Honor/Respect God. Cursing God can come from resentment about sad and painful things that happen in life, like when Job’s wife said “curse God and die” during Job’s time of severe loss and tragedy. So it’s important to learn enough about God, life and Providence to trust His purposes and deal with life’s difficulties with maturity.
Refraining from idolatry: Learn the basic truths about the One True God. Remove idols and idolatrous influences from one’s environment. See God as the ultimate source of what goes on in the universe rather than separate forces and agencies.
Refraining from certain sexual immoralities: Maintain healthy family relationships. Remove all influences of sexual lust from one’s environment. Place proper boundaries between yourself and those of the opposite gender and the forbidden sexual partners.
Refraining from murder: Protect life. Protect those around from physical and verbal harm via abuse, slander and lies . Use your own actions and words to promote life, safety and happiness.
Refraining from theft: Respect the property rights of others. As theft derives from selfishness and unjustly taking the property of others without you forcing consent or without any consent, acts that reflect selflessness, such as charity are useful practices; and it is good to seek and respect another person consent or refusal to give such consent and submit.
Refraining from meat taken from an animal while it’s alive: Act as God’s stewards and custodians over nature rather than scavengers, using things with self-control and moderation.
Not only are these suggestions positive aspects of the negative, they are fences around the prohibitions minimizing the risk of transgression.
Now make no mistake: these ideas challenge me as much as I’m challenging those around me, whoever’s reading this. I’m not perfect but I want to aim high.
But always remember, there are still plenty of details to the fundamental prohibitions that make up the basic seven commandments. We can’t neglect our foundations lest they crumble. But we can use them and their positive aspects to grow, connect with God and improve our respective environments.
Thank you for reading this.
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