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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Ten Words (6)

The sixth of the Ten Words/Commandments is one of the shortest.  It reads, quite simply: "You shall not kill." (Ex 20:13).  However, it might be, more accurately, translated - as is the case in some of the more modern versions - "You shall not commit murder."  In other words, this commandment has to do with the deliberate, and malicious, taking of the life of another human being.

Life, of course, is a gift from God.  This is why we speak of the process of conceiving children as "procreation" - from the Latin pro =  "in place of, on behalf of" (proconsul, pronoun) + creare  = "to make, bring forth, produce, beget".   In the act of sexual intercourse, a man and a woman are working with Almighty God in the bringing into being of a new human life.  Because life is a gift from God, only He may legitimately take it away.

Of course, this does not include a situation of self-defence; defence of the realm; or the judicial execution of the death penalty.  Indeed, Ex.21:12ff expressly states that there are occasions on which a man must die!   Even before the giving of the Decalogue, we read that God said to Noah that "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed ; for God made man in His own image." (Gen 9:6).

This is also one of the commandments specifically referred to by the Lord Jesus.  In that collection of His teaching that we know as The Sermon on the Mount, He says: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Matt 5:21-22).  In other words, although I may be able to say that I have never been responsible for the deliberate taking of the life of a fellow human being, that is not enough.   I would need to be able to claim, with absolute honesty, that I have never (as in 'not ever'!) been angry with anyone!   From a personal point of view, having spent a total of 25 years teaching Secondary School pupils (aged 11-18) I have to confess that, in Jesus' terms, I was a serial killer!

So, where does that leave us?   Well, we are also exhorted, in the New Testament: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:21).  Writing to the Galatian believers, Paul says: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2).     Jesus, again in the Sermon on the Mount, says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matt 5:9); and "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, ..." (Matt 5:43-44).

What that would seem to suggest is that Father God wants us to go far beyond not committing murder.  He wants us to actively treat even those who choose to hate us as respectfully as possible, and do all within our power to live in peace and harmony with them.  "Strive for peace with all men , and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14).

To accomplish this we must respect this wonderful gift of the precious possession of human life.

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