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Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 2012

The Fifth Commandment
You Shall Not Murder

What Does This Mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, 
but help and support him in every physical need.

This commandment is probably the most straight forward of all the commandments, right? You shall not murder means you and I don't get to kill people just because we don't like them. It doesn't seem like there is much to say here so let's move on to the next commandment.

Not so fast. This commandment carries with it a great deal of confusion. If murdering is against God's will, how am I to understand war? What about the death sentence? Is killing in such situations okay? If a nation is attacking us and seeking to destroy us, are we just to sit by and allow ourselves to be conquered? It is very interesting to note that when God gives this commandment in the Old Testament, He later gives situations in which killing wrongdoers is okay. At other moments, he gives instructions to Israel to destroy their enemies. In these instances is God breaking His own commandment? Is He instructing Israel to sin?

We must draw a distinction as we hear this commandment. This commandment is given to us individuals to instruct us how we are to treat our neighbors. We are not to harm them in thought, word, or deed. But, in all things, we are to give them our help and our support. This is true even to those who we consider our enemies! However, this commandment has a different application for the government that is given the authority to maintain peace and carry out justice. The government has been instituted by God to punish wrongdoers and criminals. If a nation is under attack, the government has the responsibility to protect its citizens. As Paul says in Romans 13:4, "[The government] 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 carious out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." God instituted the government as an agent of His wrath against those who break the law and cause harm to His creatures.

We can certainly debate how the government should best carry out this duty. But, we must recognize that the authority to punish the wrongdoer is from God. This does not mean that a government has the right to murder (though they may utilize the death penalty in certain situations). But, the government cannot decide it is okay to carry out genocide as in the case of the Nazis. Nor, should a government sit back and watch as countless of innocent babies are murdered as in the case of legalized abortion. They are there to punish wrongdoers, not oversee murderous deaths.

For our part, as individuals, we do not have the authority from God to kill our enemies. In fact, as Christians, we are called to love all of our neighbors, even the ones who are against us. As Jesus says, "Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39). And later, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). God would have us love our enemies. After all, this is how Christ loved us! "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Romans 5:10).

Pastor Bob

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