‘You shall not murder.’ Exodus 20:13
A Sunday school teacher, in the process of teaching the Ten Commandments to her class, reminded them that they had learned the commandment to honour their fathers and mothers. She then asked if there was a commandment that refers to brothers and sisters. One girl replied, ‘You shall not murder!’ We smile and enjoy the humour of the story, but if we stop for a moment, there is a disturbing truth. All of us have harboured murderous thoughts towards others. They may be hateful glances, ‘If looks could kill …’ All of us have been angry enough to throttle someone for what they have done to us. It is extremely unlikely someone here has murdered someone. However, we’ve broken this Commandment in thought, word and deed and we are in need of forgiveness.
What is murder? The modern versions of the Bible has replaced the word ‘kill’ with ‘murder.’ In certain conditions the taking of life is permitted, for example, animal life. Some argue we should not kill animals, but Genesis 9:3 gives permission to kill to eat. Equally, God ordained capital punishment, allowing the state to kill one who deliberately kills another (Leviticus 24:17, Exodus 21:12-14). The Bible allows for the pursuing of a just war, which inevitably leads to death (Deuteronomy 20). Outside of these exceptions the destruction of life is murder. Therefore the murder of another, whether a baby still in a mother’s womb, or an elderly person coming to the end of their days, is an evil act.
There are three reasons why we should not murder another person:
- The sanctification of human life. God made us to enjoy fellowship with Him and gave us the capacity to have fellowship with Him. That’s what distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. We proclaim all people, irrespective of lifestyle, are to be respected. This does not mean we have to agree with them or endorse their sin, but they share in the same dignity by being created in His image (Psalm 8:5-6). Each and every human being has a God-given life that is sacred and He alone brings it to a close. For man to destroy another man’s life is to usurp the authority of God. It shows utter contempt for a God-given life (Genesis 9:6). Murder is an act of evil.
- Committing murder is following in Satan’s footsteps. It is the way of the devil to murder (John 8:44). From the very beginning it has been Satan’s purpose is to destroy human life through sin and death. In the Garden of Eden he pretends to Adam and Eve he is on their side. His desire is to bring death into the world and upon Adam and Eve. From the very beginning Satan has been a murderer.
- Murder is the elevation of self. Murder is a great evil. It’s the ultimate experience of selfishness. It’s the taking over the right of someone else to life. It is out of sin-ridden selfishness (Mark 7:21-23). Murder is one of the clearest experiences of the fallen-ness of the human heart as it is gripped in its own selfish concerns.
We are living where the respect of the sanctity of human life is in decline. We have become immune to scenes of murder in television programmes. People are enthralled by blood thirstiness. We are confronted by images of people being shot, maimed or killed. When we hear of teenagers being stabbed to death we think or feel nothing. We may say it’s sad, but then just carry on. Computer games encourage people to act out violence. Every week scores of unborn children are murdered simply because it’s an inconvenience for them to be born. People are increasingly concerned for animal rights. Dear friends, life is becoming increasingly cheap as we, as a society, turn away from God and indulge our self-centredness. Oh how we need to pray that God would have mercy on us.
Whilst we have not physically murdered anyone, the characteristics of murder are to be found in our hearts. Haven’t we refused to acknowledge the dignity of another, refused them common courtesy? It is seen in the racism of our age, where one group views another with disdain and contempt. We may despise an individual. Haven’t we taken devilish delight in bringing someone down a peg or two or been cruel in thought or action?
The Lord rightly points out the keeping of the sixth commandment includes dealing with the murderous attitudes of our hearts (Matthew 6). Inside each one of us lurks a murderer. We are all guilty of breaking the sixth commandment and all need to admit it.
But there is forgiveness. Amongst those who God forgives their sins are murderes. Even Moses, who the Commandments were given to, was a murderer (Exodus 2:11-12). Then there was King David, who arranged for Uriah to be murdered so his sin could be covered up (II Samuel 11). David was a murderer. Throughout the centuries there have been those involved in the most evil murders, including one of the closest associates of Paul Pott, yet who was saved through faith.
How can God forgive murderers? Because Jesus died in the place of a murderer (John 18). Here, this morning, no-one has picked up a knife or gun, but we are all guilty of that sin in our hearts. May be someone here has had an abortion. But there is forgiveness because the Lord Jesus Christ died, even for murderers. The good news is God forgives the sin of murder because Jesus identified Himself as responsible for the murder that lurks in your heart and mine. As we stand condemned by murderous thoughts we can rejoice the Lord Jesus Christ died for us. If we come to Him today all we have to do is repent, acknowledge our sin and no longer indulge in excuses. As your word examines me, I stand convicted. I throw myself on the mercy that is yours and can be mine. What a great God!
Finally, if you come to Jesus Christ and repent of your sin and are restored to a right relationship with God, everything changes. Instead of murder comes self-sacrifice. It leads us to make positive contributions to the life of others. Love does no harm to its neighbour. You have no difficulty in loving yourself. We are to desire to work towards our neighbours good, even more, to fellow believers (1 John 3:15-16). Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Dear friends, in so many churches it seems we’re more intent on murdering one another than laying down our lives for one another. The Christian should be willing to lay down his life for another. We need the mind-set of Christ (Philippians 2). We are to enter into the Saviour’s mind-set. We are to become increasingly like Him in our union. We must love one another, we must lay down our lives for each other. We must put the interests of everyone else above our own interests. When we do that we fulfil the sixth commandment.
Replace murderous thoughts and actions with true love. You cannot walk with the Lord whilst wishing harm to someone else. We are to be willing to suffer loss to secure that well-being for others, to give up everything as He gave up the glory of heaven and even His life for our salvation. Surrender all rights and privileges, then the love of God is with us.