ON THE day when the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey
wrote in the Daily Mail that he was now supporting Lord
Falconer's assisted-dying Bill, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu,
used his presidential address to deliver a sermon on the Ten
Commandments, and, specifically, the need to "choose life over
"Choosing life rather than death is built on in all God's
revelation, in all Jesus Christ's atoning work, in all the Holy
Spirit's renewing work," he said. "This is a choice we must each
make not just once, but day by day, continually. And make it
together as members of the Body of Christ."
The decision to choose life over death was "the granite on which
all morality, religious belief, and the rule of law rest", he
He emphasised that he was not calling for a "return to the Ten
Commandments as an invincible barrier against the tidal waves of
aggressive and intolerant'-isms' whose momentum seemsto threaten to
sweep us aside". This approach was to "misunderstand the nature of
the Commandments, and the gospel of Jesus Christ".
In Hebrew, the Commandments were not negative commands, but "a
tense equivalent to the future indicative", he said. "Do not steal"
was actually "You will not steal" - "the Ten Commandments are not
so much a series of commands as promises.
"Here we are at the opposite extreme from a narrow legalistic
outlook, so often attributed wrongly to the Jewish people. God's
word is a promise of life, pointing towards a world of freedom and
blessedness, where justice and peace reign."
The Torah and the Sermon on the Mount were "Jesus's manifesto,
his programme of change, his mission statement", the Archbishop
said. "He does not water down the divine commands or minimise their
importance or relevance. He himself practised and upheld the Law of
"Jesus of Nazareth affirms the Ten Commandments, and raises them
beyond what seems to be the bounds of possibility. . . The God who
calls us to 'choose life and not death' sets the bar as high as the
Kingdom of heaven."
He continued: "The Ten Commandments do not cease to be valid for
the followers of Christ. It is simply that the centre of gravity
has shifted from an outward law or command to an inner law, heard
and kept in the heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit."