Dan Popp
Murder
Written in stone: Thoughts on the Ten Commandments
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By Dan Popp
October 16, 2012

You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13, NASB)

In the Bible, God surprises us with His high regard for human life — and scandalizes us with His low regard for human life. First He shatters the philosophies of our contemporary amoralists, by giving special protection to those whom they deem "unworthy" to live; then God shows Himself ruthless against the depraved criminal.

How can God be against homicide, but for killing in other circumstances? YHWH instructed the Israelites to utterly annihilate the peoples infesting the Promised Land — after, please note, giving the barbarians over 400 years to repent of their wickedness (see Genesis 15:13-16). The answer, I think, is the bright line between innocent and guilty life, when we're speaking about human society.

Jesus threatened a fate worse than death for those who harm His "little ones." Yet we end the lives of the unborn, even insisting upon murder as our "right."

But the literal slaughter of innocents is only the surface layer of what is prohibited in the Sixth Commandment. Jesus revealed that the Mosaic Law is much more than just a checklist of physical actions. These rules also stand for the mental processes behind the actions, and the spiritual condition that breeds those mental processes.
    "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent." (Matthew 5:17-26)
Anger is the spirit of murder just as lust is the spirit of adultery — our topic next time. For the rising fever of rage, the Good Physician prescribes the balm of reconciliation. His disciples once made a mistake that we often make; that of confusing righteous indignation with wounded pride.
    ...and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:52-56)
Jesus forced us to see that the murderer is us. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."

We pray with our fellow murderer, King David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God."

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Previous articles in this series: God, Images, Name, Rest, Parents.

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© Dan Popp

 

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