Here are notes from a sermon I preached on the 27th April at Jubilee Church. The mp3 is available to download here or listen to using the following embedded player-
“You shall not murder.” (Ex 20:13)
Ok, right at the outset, do we have any murderers here? No? Anyone planning on committing a murder? No? Good, so then we can all go home, yes? We got it straight, since we live in a Christian country means its Chicken for dinner tonight rather than human. Lets go get some coffee.
Actually there is some more to this commandment than first meets the eye.
No careless killing ESV footnote “also causing human death through carelessness or negligence” so see for example Ex 21:28-29 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.”
Deuteronomy 22:8: “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring blood-guilt on your house if anyone falls from it.”
Risk assessment is biblical! “[The Jew] was to do everything humanly possible not to cause the death of another person” -The Master’s Seminary, Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 11, 11:206 (Master’s Seminary, 2000; 2003).
- Therefore, human life is precious we should take good care of it. Every human is made in Gods image and therefore worth looking after. It is the Christian faith that teaches us we are not just the outcome of millions of years of chance reactions. We don’t kill because life itself is a gift of God. We should also support initiatives that reduce the risk of death or serious injury.
eg car and road safety – 1 in 200 risk of dying on the roads! So driving at no more than 30 mph in built up areas is a good idea due to the dramatic risk of death if hit faster. 95% live if hit at 20mph, 90% die at 40mph. Also wear seat belts, pay for proper maintenance, and buy the safest car you can afford.
-also health measures, smoking in public bans is good as it will lead to less premature death. Form of Russian Roulette – 50% will die prematurely loosing ave of 16 years of precious God-given life. In country after country smoking bans have led to dramatic drops in the rates of heart attacks – 17% in Scotland for example in one year. Christians should support the provision of good health care and also simple social changes that can make massive impact by saving lives. Especially in developing world eg lack of clean water.
However, although this commandment applies to careless killing, there were clear distinctions made in the punishment depending on the intent “(1) the weapon used, (2) the enmity of the killer toward his victim, and (3) premeditation” (Numbers 35. 16–24) -The Master’s Seminary, Master’s Seminary Journal Volume 11, 11:205 (Master’s Seminary, 2000; 2003).
Similar rules are still used today.
What other things that might be called murder?
-We have seen that negligence such as careless fighting or driving, is surely potential murder by the broader hebraic definition. But what of some areas that may be less clear to some. Lets be very clear here -
-Euthanasia or so-called “mercy killing”- so far even the unbelievers cannot bring themselves to legalize this in the UK. How could we know someone really understood what they were asking for and weren’t coerced or depressed? Bible simply says “no killing”. This surely even applies to some of the grey areas being discussed such as removing food and drink via tubes from brain damaged.
-Assisting Suicide remains illegal, but what about neglecting to prevent it?. Psychiatric services should be used appropriately… sadly the quality of our services vary. But people have a right to be treated against their will when they pose a danger to themselves and are not in their right minds.
-Abortion? We all agree that life exists after birth. We believe it is wrong to murder a newborn baby. So surely life exists just before. When then does it start? There is no logic to our current term limits for abortion- loosely based on when a child might survive “independently” outside the womb. But when technology improves will that mean the date changes? And, since a baby is not truly “independent” are they less fully human?
Our question should simply be is this a human? Does he or she have the image of God? If so we must protect, not kill. John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mothers womb whom when he met Jesus (Luke 1:44) and Psalm 139 makes plain God saw us and knew us there as he knit us together.
-Contraception? Pre conception fine, anything that definitely acts post conception is clearly not. Some methods are controversial as to their mode of action (eg oral contraceptive pill, coil etc). Christians should examine the evidence for themselves, pray, seek advice if needed then make the decision their conscience is happy with.
-IVF? Christians undergoing this procedure may wish to speak with their doctors about the fate of so-called “spare” embryos. Although they are routinely discarded, this need not be the case.
-War? The police? Romans 13.1-4 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
In the end this boils down to a simple question. If you were holding an armed gun, and had a chance to kill someone who was definitely about to kill another, would you be wrong to pull that trigger? The balance of the bible strongly suggests that you would not be wrong to do that.
So far, though, for the vast majority of us, none of this will have touched us. Perhaps there are some in the room who have had an abortion, if so, please bear with me as there is forgiveness for you as we will explain later.
But for the rest of us there is a danger that we will feel morally superior and proud of ourselves. So we haven’t murdered… Big deal! If we think that makes us worthy of praise by God we are deluded!
Jesus punctures that bubble by saying “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. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5.21-24
Words can kill!
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 Jn 3:15
“It is not only the act, but also the sentiment underlying the act, which is evil” – Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Map on lining papers., 2044 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988).
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning” Jn 8:44
Actual murder is just the extension of anger and bitterness. Billy Grahams wife was once asked if she had ever considered divorce during their long marriage her answer- “divorce, NO! Murder, YES!“
If murder is sometimes the ultimate punishment for some imagined harm done by its victim, forgiveness is the opposite. Far from merely not murdering our enemies, God calls us to love them and forgive them.
We are told to forgive as we have been forgiven and warned that he will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.
Christians should be recognized as those who practice the reverse of murder. If murder is treating someone as sub-human and a less valuable object then the opposite is surely thinking of others as more important than you and selflessly loving them expecting nothing in return.
You can’t murder someone you love. Jesus said love fulfills the law – love God covers the first few commandments, love your neighbor covers the rest.
God is the ultimate forgiver. We see this in the sad story of King David. We see the king who is described as the man after Gods own heart that the smallest sin can grow to become a major one. Most murders happen as a result of an argument between for example husband and wife. It is even possible that by causing us to stop and realize how dangerous anger is that this sermon might prevent a future murder.
Owen once said “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
In Davids case, laziness led to a roaming eye. In our day he’d have visited certain websites or the top shelf at the news-agent. Then, he went on the roof to catch a glance at a woman bathing. That led to adultery. That led to deception and trickery. That led to murder.
Sin is sin. We stand before God bankrupt. When you are bankrupt it doesn’t really matter if you owe a few thousands or a few million. You simply can never pay. An eternity in hell facing the wrath of God wont wipe away our sins.
The scandal of the cross is that on it, a man was murdered. Without removing the moral responsibility for that act, and the fact that we are all guilty of killing the son of God….ultimately there was something else going on.
The cross was a judicial killing. God the Almighty poured out his righteous wrath and punishment on his son. Jesus paid our debt. Not only did he cancel our debts, he credited our account with his righteousness. If you are a christian this morning he is as pleased with you not just as if you never sinned but just as if you were always righteous or put another way he is as thrilled with you as he is with Jesus!
Murderers are Invited to become Christians. Why? Because God can even forgive murderers, So he can forgive you.