4.08 - Sixth Commandment: Do Not Murder
“You shall not murder.“ (Exodus 20:13)
4.08.1 - Incredible Yet True
The first man born of a woman and loved by his father was the murderer of his brother. The Bible exposes this insidious crime and the deeply rooted corruption of the human heart. All people carry within them the hereditary qualities of a murderer. Since Adam, man has lived separated from God as a complete egotist led by his own desires and hopes. He subconsciously thinks that he is the focal point and standard for others. If someone appears to be stronger, wiser, more godly or more beautiful, he envies him and hates him. Each individual wants to be a demigod to be admired and worshiped by others. But pride and self-righteousness are destructive qualities.
Jesus calls the devil “a murderer from the beginning“, for he removed man from his original fellowship with God. Ever since, death has controlled mankind, “for the wages of sin is death.“ But God has provided a way for us to return to Him by virtue of His love and justice. Everyone who takes advantage of the opportunity to be saved, renewed in his mind and to receive God as the focus of his life will receive eternal life today. This will give purpose and meaning to his life.
Man has many motives and reasons for killing. Jesus reveals that murder is the first of all evil thoughts that come out of men's hearts (Matthew 15:19). But in His holiness God opposed man's evil intent and forbade him to carry out his aims when He commanded, “You shall not kill.“ Therefore, all kinds of killing, even suicide, are against the will of God and considered as nothing less than open rebellion against God Himself. Moreover, if someone treats others badly, not caring if they go hungry and does not warn them against impending dangers, he also falls under the category of murderer. If anyone wounds a person, puts poison in his food or encourages somebody else to kill him, he will sit with all killers on a bench of eternal judgment. Even if someone harms another and thereby shortens his life, he is also a murderer according to the Bible (Romans 13:1-18). God holds us accountable for our fellow man so that we cannot evade and say as Cain said, “Am I my brother's keeper?“
4.08.2 - Punishment & Revenge
The death sentence in the Old Testament was issued as a deterrent and a fulfillment of justice against every murderer and assassin (Exodus 21:12,14,18). Most people then were living in tribes that provided a kind of life insurance. The fear of becoming involved in a bloody tribal feud is a means of protection for the individual. The law “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth“ determines the type of punishment in proportion to the amount of harm. But the penalty would be multiplied in the case of killing the chief of the tribe. Lamech demanded 77 people be killed for killing him (Genesis 4:23-24). Some tribes still practice this in the case of murder of any of their leaders.
In Semitic cultures murder is an unpardonable crime and it cannot be atoned for except by the shedding of a man's blood. Forgiving would be unjust. People take advantage of the guilt feelings of others. The hatred of an enemy would be preserved from generation to generation even if whole nations are involved. Such thinking has become foreign to the Christian, either in the east or the west. We have a different culture since Christ shed His blood to take away the guilt of every murderer.
The murderer remains miserable for he is weighed down by his guilt. The spirits of those he killed will hound him in his thoughts or dreams. One night a sniper in World War II saw the skulls of those he had shot rolling toward him and their empty eyes stared at him. If a murderer goes back home to his Muslim village, even after a generation, he must expect to be killed by the adult son of the one he murdered. Murder does not pay. But it is not enough to frighten or threaten people in order to stop killing. All evil thoughts have to be removed from human hearts and replaced with new thoughts. Jesus knew the intents of the human heart and with this He indirectly sentenced everyone to death when He said, “No one is good but One, that is, God“ (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). But at the same time He bore our guilt as murderers and put His sweet Spirit in our hearts, which can renew our minds and remove the thoughts of murder. Jesus gives us a new heart and an upright spirit, and makes believers out of us, who can obey His commandments and love our enemies.
4.08.3 - A Christian Perspective on Killing and Reconciliation
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us that killing the body is not the only crime, but slander is also considered to be spiritual murder. It has a long-term effect like poison. Any kind of slander, hateful lies, deliberate threats, bitter strife, intentional cursing, betrayal of trust or mockery are spiritually deadly. They poison first the heart of the one who speaks these words, then they poison the mind of the one accused. Jesus said, “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!“ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!“ shall be in danger of hell fire“ (Matthew 5:22). Through this statement Jesus declared us all to be guilty and judged us as evil-hearted people with a murderous spirit, who deserve hell.
We should repent and acknowledge that we all have murderous thoughts in our hearts. Anger, envy, persistence in hateful disputes, a vengeful spirit, cruelty and brutality are emotions and acts that assail not just adults but also children. No wonder John says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer“ (1 John 3:15). We have to examine ourselves honestly and see if we have any hateful feelings against person and ask God to overcome our hatred completely. Otherwise these bad thoughts could take root in our hearts and demoralize us. Jesus expects everyone who recites the Lord's Prayer to forgive everyone completely just as God has forgiven all our sins. God expects us to forgive. Our willingness to forgive will help us conquer and our decision to forgive will overcome our desire to demolish our enemies. You may agree to forgive your enemy but you still can't forget his crime. Be careful! In this case we are asking God to forgive our sins but not to forget our sins. Or we may say, “I am willing to forgive my friend's sins and forget his crime against me but I never want to see him again!“ Do you want to come to God, but never meet Him or see Him at all? Do you want Him to treat you the same way you treat your enemy?
Jesus left us only one way to achieve peace, as He said, “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven“ (Matthew 5:44-45). We cannot overcome our hate except by the power of divine love present in those broken-hearted believers. Therefore, Jesus unequivocally warns us: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses“ (Matthew 6:15).
Why can Christians forgive their enemies all their trespasses when every sinner should be punished? Won't this injustice cry out to heaven? That's true! God cannot leave any sin unpunished, as it is written, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.“ For this reason Jesus bore our sins and carried the punishment on our behalf. The Word of God says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed“ (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus, the Son of God, bore our personal sins and the sins of all mockers and murderers. That is why we have the privilege of forgiving everyone's sins without exception. We no longer have the right or duty to seek justice with retaliation. In His suffering and substitutionary death Jesus fulfilled all requirements of divine justice. He is our peace. Anyone who still fights for his rights and seeks justice for himself condemns himself. Love alone is the fulfillment of the law. Staying away from love means entering judgment again. Jesus alone creates a new mind and a new will in His followers and helps them to forgive as God forgives.
4.08.4 - The Religion of the Sword
Everyone who sees the grace of the forgiveness Jesus granted will be shocked to see Islam dictating that people seek bloody retaliation. Holy war with deliberate killing is a divine Islamic order. Islam allows murder for the sake of religion and makes it a duty for a Muslim. Muhammad wrote in the Quran, “Take them and kill them wherever you find them,“ and “choose no friend nor helper from among them“ (Suras al-Nisa 4:89,91 or al-Baqara 2:191). The Spirit of Christ does not speak through these words, but the spirit of the “murderer from the beginning“.
Muhammad killed his own enemies, one after the other, and personally joined 27 attacks. In fact, he let a mass grave be dug for the Jews in Medina whom he accused of treason during the Battle of Khandaq.
Since the Battle of Badr, all Muslims who kill their enemies in holy war are justified by Muhammad's words, “You did not kill them, but Allah killed them. You did not shoot, when you shot, but Allah shot“ (Sura al-Anfal 8:17). Moderate Muslims do not approve of such interpretation of the verse, but religious terrorists use it to justify themselves before courts. Muhammad's revelation provided a justification for every killing during holy war. More than this, whoever dies in an Islamic war against infidels goes straight to paradise, where indescribable, sensuous pleasures await him. On the other hand, a Muslim is not allowed to kill another Muslim deliberately because such killing is an unpardonable sin according to the Islamic law. But idol worshipers and all non-Muslims are not granted any protection. Killing animists is considered to be a good deed which brings the killer heavenly rewards.
In Islamic law we find a concept of justice very foreign to us. The high price of the blood being shed, al-dyia, can replace retaliation. But even in traffic accidents and car crashes, the law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth takes effect, legitimately or illegitimately, in countries that practice Islamic law. There is seldom compromise possible, for Islamic justice requires its own kind of atonement, which demands that truth and justice will be practiced without mercy. Muslims do not have a substitute or a Lamb of God which established an everlasting redemption. They do not know the grace of God which has overcome the demands of the truth. So they must execute the law without grace.
4.08.5 - The Sermon on the Mount Counters Jihad
Life in the Old Testament was based on justice. The Mosaic law covered every aspect of life, not just civil laws but also religious systems. Thus the religious authority of the state was necessary to enforce paying the penalty for transgression against the law. Religious war is an inevitable result of the Old Testament and Islamic understanding of law and government. But ever since Jesus Christ preached that everyone should love his enemies, and put this into action, all religious wars have lost their divine legitimacy. The Crusades were a sin and a step backward in relating religion to political authority. Jesus did not send His apostles out into the world to preach the Gospel armed with swords. On the contrary, He said to Peter, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword“ (Matthew 26:52). Jesus willingly went to the cross and died, righteous though He was, and refused to destroy His enemies with a host of angels. The Spirit of Christ is in total contradiction to the spirit of Muhammad. Jesus preached in His sermon on the mount, “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also'' (Matthew 5:38,39). Thus, Jesus overcame the old way, which claimed the right to self-defense. The bodily weakness of Christ in His crucifixion and His spiritual power of love, faith and hope were the only way to conquer the Devil, and to fulfill the entire requirements of the divine law.
A Christian faces a critical question: What should I do if I am drafted into military service and required to use modern weapons and maybe later fight in a war? What does that mean for a believing citizen in a big nation or a member of a Christian minority in a non-Christian country? In different stages of history different believers had different answers to this difficult question. Some brothers were ready to be thrown into prison for their peaceful intentions and die as martyrs for Christ's sake. Others wanted to be obedient to the authority placed over them by God. They regarded the law against murder to be an individual matter that only pertains to their personal lives. They claimed that they did not hate anyone, but they were willing to defend their country. They tried hard to love their enemies and to be faithful to their governments at the same time. They regarded the coming kingdom of God as an eternal spiritual kingdom, but acknowledged the present kingdoms of this world as an indispensable necessity. Everyone who finds difficulties with this question will seek the guidance of God earnestly. He will get the right answer. But such a believer needs to be on his or her guard against putting down those who made the opposite decision. Responsibility for country and home is as much a commandment of God as loving one's enemies.
4.08.6 - Modern Killers
The Sermon on the Mount, which contains a description of the kingdom under the new covenant, can only be put into action on the personal level. It seems as if it is not yet time to apply it politically. When someone demonstrates violently to make peace, it shows that he has misunderstood the Sermon on the Mount, exactly like those who, out of false humanitarian motives, support world-wide abortion. This is the most monstrous crime ever committed in history. Millions of living embryos are killed in the womb. Many mothers and fathers bear the sting of murder on their consciences. We live in a generation of murderers and we are unknowingly part of that generation.
Tens of thousands of people are involved in traffic accidents, not coincidentally or because of modern technology, but because of drunkenness, driving above the speed limit or weariness. If we want to keep the sixth commandment we should consider traffic accidents to be manslaughter and persistently seek to change the way we drive our cars. We need to drive our cars in humble self-control, seeking the protection of God and asking Him for patience.
We live in a time of environmental pollution, when the air, water and foodstuffs are poisoned. Perhaps the plagues of God can be lessened if we cherish our surrounding environment and lift our eyes up to God, asking Him how to live right. This way we preserve our world and strive not to destroy it ourselves.
Over-eating is a hidden form of suicide that thousands of people in our luxurious societies indulge in, killing themselves gradually. Others indulge in sexual abuses and ruin their body, soul and spirit. Whoever is jealous or selfish suffers from depression and loneliness, which shortens his life. Also, overwork, restlessness and self-abuse are self-destructive. Irregular sleeping and sloppy living are sins against one's own body because we belong to God, not to ourselves.
Jesus taught us self-denial not self-realization when He said, “For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it“ (Matthew 16:25). Paul emphasizes, “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit“ (Romans 14:17). Regular spiritual life produces regular physical life and is accompanied by peace of heart and mind.
The sixth commandment prohibits all kinds of murder and encourages us at the same time to keep doing deeds of love. It tries to awaken sympathy in us for those living in wretchedness. We should not pass by a needy person as if we did not see him, but take time for him and help him as much as possible. Jesus, the incarnate love of God, showed us how to apply this commandment practically. His Spirit will guide us if we ask Him for wisdom. It is Jesus who can turn murderers into children of His love and helps them to rescue the lost for their spiritual healing, too. This will happen when we point them to the Physician of all physicians, Jesus, who renews them and sanctifies them from the inside and transforms the murderous soul in them into a serving and loving one.