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The Fifth Commandment

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The Fifth Commandment

Post by PastorDan on Thu Nov 24, 2016 10:31 am

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The Fifth Commandment is God’s prohibition against “murder”.

The first thing we teach our children when instructing them about this prohibition is that not all killing is murder. At times this can be a wee bit controversial because it is easy to understand ALL killing as “murder”, but that is not how God’s Word distinguishes it, so we must put aside our worldly sensibilities and understand how God makes the distinction. More on this later. So let’s work through it together.

All murder is an unjust violent act.

Once Jesus expands our understanding of the fifth commandment (in Matthew 5), we come to understand that murder and killing are not the same thing. “Murder”, in Jesus’ teaching, is more akin to hatred or scorn than it is to killing. Murder is any devaluation of another person’s life. The fifth commandment is a tough nut.

Sometimes murder is obvious. Man walks into bank, shoots people: murder. Sometimes murder is less obvious. Man comes home, insults his wife: murder.

So what about “killing”?

In order to understand what kinds of killing are not murder, we take a cue from our military/police. (Yes, there are unrighteous acts committed by soldiers and police, but we are focused here on the standards and policies that enable our military and police to enact justice without violating righteousness.) A policeman who shoots and kills a mass murderer who is actively engaged in violence presents an obvious example of killing that is not murder. In this case, the mass murderer has made the decision FOR the policeman that the policeman MUST shoot. In other words, the policeman is not deciding anything that the murderer hasn’t already decided for him. The policeman is not guilty of murder, though he may need emotional support as a result of the traumatic experience.

In essence, that example helps us understand how the Bible deals with killing. God has entrusted earthly governments with the authority to carry out His justice. He wants all earthly governments to do this according to a Biblical sense of righteousness. Obviously that doesn’t always happen. All earthly governments have blown it. Some earthly governments become so corrupt in their destruction of justice that they must be warred against. The Nazi government is the most obvious example.

OK, so we’ve dealt with the distinction between murder and killing, and we’ve established murder as being an attitude of the heart. Let’s talk about a few other kinds of murder that are common today.

But before we get into this any more deeply, it would be prudent to remind ourselves the context of all of these commandments. JESUS HAS FORGIVEN ALL OUR SINS. I make sure to always reiterate this fact during our Confirmation Class discussions about Commandments and sins. We must understand what sins are so that we can avoid them. We do NOT talk about sins as a condemnation of the people who commit them. Sins are forgiven. So what is a sin?

Well, suicide is, for example, murder.

As we pointed out above, God authorizes earthly governments to carry out His justice on earth. God does NOT authorize any individual to do this. Thus a suicide is an individual casting judgement upon himself that he is not authorized to do. It is murder. Remember, God forgives sins, so we must not look upon a suicide as a sin God cannot forgive. God’s forgiveness does not operate on a “timeline”. God’s forgiveness is a timeless reality.

Euthanasia is murder.

Medical circumstances can be quite complex. So it is not wise for us to get black and white about end-of-life issues. But Euthanasia is pretty well-defined. This is the intentional ending of someone’s life when their life-end is not already clearly in sight. It is often referred to “mercy” because the idea is that the prospects of a quality life are so poor that death is preferred. Medical technology has made it possible to keep people “alive” who are barely sentient. There is justice in unplugging certain kinds of life-support machines under certain circumstances, and people face these terrible decisions daily. But Euthanasia is the killing of a person who remains sentient and doesn’t want to face the overwhelming difficulty of his awful quality of life. God tells us that such suffering in life should turn our eyes toward Him, not toward death.

Abortion is murder.

Once again, there are some statistically rare circumstances that make the termination of a pregnancy an act of justice. Generally, however, abortion is an act of convenience, and as such it is CLEARLY murder. God’s word tells us that our life is a reality to Him prior to our conception. In other words, Christians ought not engage in a “biological” discussion of “when does life begin”. For Christians, life is a theological question, not a biological one. Life begins when God speaks it. And God spoke you before your mother and father conceived you. Once that is understood, and as long as abortion is being performed for anything but the most drastic of measures, it is murder.

Remember. God forgives sins.

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