Q11: What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?
ANSWER: Sixth, that we do not hurt, or hate, or be hostile to our neighbor, but be patient and peaceful, pursuing even our enemies with love. Seventh, that we abstain from sexual immorality and live purely and faithfully, whether in marriage or in single life, avoiding all impure actions, looks, words, thoughts, or desires, and whatever might lead to them. Eighth, that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else, nor withhold any good from someone we might benefit.
You may have noticed that the answer to Question 11 doesn't simply repeat the sixth, seventh and eighth commandments verbatim. Rather, the catechism appears to expand upon the original versions of these commandments, suggesting a broader understanding of their content and application. The Decalogue is, in a sense, recast from the original law-like formulation found in Exodus 20, to a more principle-oriented approach.
Why? The reason lies at the heart of Christ's Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 of Matthew's Gospel. Five different times in that passage, Jesus uses the formulation: "You have heard it was said . . . but I tell you . . ." Such repetition grabs our attention; it notifies us that there is something deeply significant happening here. Having just offered the perplexing statement "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Christ proceeds to radically heighten and deepen the requirements of the Law. He takes the legal proscriptions of the Decalogue and draws out their positive implications, relocating the center of God's Law from the outward action to the inward condition.
Consider His discussion of the Sixth Commandment against murder. Jesus preaches, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire."
Now, a vanishingly small number of us would consider ourselves guilty of murder, and thus violators of the Sixth Commandment--yet if the Sixth Commandment actually means to get at the inner heart condition of hatred, hostility or disregard for our neighbor, then we all have violated the Sixth Commandment--just as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
When we think about the Decalogue, we must do so in light of Christ's teaching and example, and recognize that we are all in violation. We cannot understand God's Law as a mere legal code; to the contrary, God's Law sets the standard governing every aspect of our inner being, and if we are honest, we all fall short. We all need forgiveness; we all need the grace of God given to us through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”