“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13
This commandment is simple and to the point, yet Christians continually struggle to determine what exactly this commandment means for us. Does it mean “to kill” or “to murder”? Does this commandment apply to animals? Suicide? War? Does it apply to the accidental killing of another person? Does it apply to the government’s killing of a convicted criminal? Does it apply to the unborn? These are extraordinarily difficult questions that many people believe are not up to our government to decide.
God ordains and even orders the killing of others in many stories of the Old Testament. Is He allowing Israel to break the fifth commandment? According to Hauerwas and Willimon, “All life is God’s. In the Bible, when killing is done, it is done under the agency of God, not by individuals or in service to the state, for only God is to kill and to make alive.” (page 80)
How is this commandment fleshed out further in the person of Jesus Christ? Jesus makes no attempts to soften or simplify this commandment, but makes it more comprehensive by including anger, insults, and demanding reconciliation from the offending parties. “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. Come to terms quickly with your accuser…” (Matthew 5:21-25a)
The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?” Here are some of their answers:
- You can murder someone’s reputation, hate them, wish they were dead, or even simply dead to you and out of your life.
- The New Testament says that hatred of someone is equivalent to murder.
- Hate kills a relationship. Then love can’t be shown as God would have you do.
- You can take a person’s reason for living or his livelihood, or demean him.
- You can be hateful towards someone in thoughts, words, or actions.
- If you hate someone you have already committed murder in your heart.
- It is possible to “kill” the image of God in others without slaying the person.
For Week 7, please read Chapter 6 on the Sixth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:
- Why is sexual conduct taken so seriously by God?
- What does this commandment prohibit besides adultery?
- How can you break this commandment without being married?
- Why does our culture make this commandment so hard to keep?
- What does this commandment mean to those who are single?