The 6th commandment, like the others, is concise. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). In the original Hebrew it reads simply: “No murder.” God condemns the deliberate, unlawful taking of life. Period. But current stats stagger the brain. According to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the homicide total in 29 large U.S. cities rose alarmingly in the first half of 2016. Compared to the same time period in 2015, murders were up 15% in the 51 large cities that submitted crime data. Concerning the sixth commandment, methinks something’s been lost in translation. To many, life gets cheaper every day. God begs to differ. He says life is priceless.
Now, pretty much everyone agrees murdering a person in cold blood is wrong. Beyond that, however, opinions on killing vary according to circumstance. There’s the issue of euthanasia. (What of the terminally ill? What are we to do with the old and feeble?) And then there’s the dilemma of abortion. (What if a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest? What if it’s discovered the child will be born with a severe handicap?) These are sticky subjects for both Christians and non-Christians. But the believer, in the privacy of their own hearts, must determine where they stand in relation to the sixth commandment. It’s set in stone. It’s not going away. To adhere to it requires rowing upstream. Alistair Begg wrote, “Our Western democratic governments, together with modern philosophies, have so vigorously promoted the sovereignty, sacredness, and rights of the individual – with a strong emphasis on personal rights – they’ve forgotten the One from whom those rights derive.” The Ten Commandments don’t bug an atheist at all. But anyone who believes in the existence of a personal Creator God must acknowledge He has the right to reign with absolute authority and establish concrete moral laws for His creatures to obey. Of all His “creatures” human beings have been given a special honor and distinction – they alone have been made in God’s image. This unique trait we possess establishes continuity between our finite selves and His infinite Self and gives our lives significant dignity and value. Whether we think so or not, we’re reflections of God’s divine glory. Begg wrote, “Our creativity, our sense of justice and morality, our self-awareness, our ability to communicate and use the power of language, our minds and our never-dying soul are evidences we’re made in God’s image.” Thus the commandment stating unequivocally “You shall not murder” must be taken quite seriously.
Despite God’s image being imprinted on us, mankind has a bad habit of behaving cruelly and hatefully. You don’t have to read very far into Genesis to see it manifested in Cain. “For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8). There are many living solely “in the flesh” among us. Secularists, proud of their fleshiness, refuse to accept God’s authority. He/she prefers to think the universe a mysterious, unexplainable effect without a cause. No God = No rules. Everybody’s a free agent, seeking the best deal they can in an impressive but ultimately absurd, meaningless cosmos. In the classic film Annie Hall Woody Allen’s character utters a depressing but commonly-held worldview when he moans “Mankind is left with alienation, loneliness, and an emptiness verging on madness… Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.” That was 1977. Things haven’t brightened discernably since then for humanists. One confirming fact is that every 40 seconds someone on this planet commits suicide. Logic will tell you there’s a vast difference between believing we’re some kind of accident and believing we’ve been created by a purposeful, involved and loving God. Christ is the sole giver of hope. People with hope don’t take their own lives.
What seems to be constantly getting lost in the shuffle of this world is the fundamental sanctity of life. The men who intentionally flew two jet airliners into the towers of the World Trade Center, slaughtering almost 3,000 people, considered only their cause to be worth a flip. Sadly, millions of Muslims idolize them as heroes. Only a solid set of principles based on biblical truths can provide an adequate reason to respect all human life. We’ve seen with our own eyes when a person’s core attitude is predicated on emotion, pragmatism or extreme radicalism they can talk themselves into committing mass murder any given day. When that’s the case their latent abhorrence of the moral laws (those the one true God imbedded in their conscience) will almost always win out and innocent blood will flow. What they refuse to accept is that life is a gift from the Heavenly Father and when/how it’s to end its run on earth is God’s prerogative.
Modern methods of visual communication have been a blessing in many ways. But it’s also made us acutely aware of how callously inhumane folks can act. Not a single day goes by without us hearing of some man, woman or child being shot, stabbed or beaten to death. In some cities unconscionable drive-by shootings are commonplace. Even police, firefighters and public servants have become targets of senseless violence. Abuses, whether verbal, physical, sexual or emotional in nature, abound (and, in some religions, are condoned). It’s gotten to the point where parents are scared to let their children play unwatched in the front yard because some predator may pull up in a van and snatch them away. Christians know why all this has happened. Over time our increasingly godless civilization has brought hell to the surface. The Bible our founding fathers used as a blueprint for building this nation has been tossed aside and labeled irrelevant and useless. The majority of our citizens have done exactly what Adam & Eve did. They bought Satan’s lie, ate the forbidden fruit and, in their conceited estimation, became “…like divine beings who know good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). We’ve become moral schizophrenics. We’re repulsed by monsters like Charles Manson and Timothy McVey but pack movie theaters to be “entertained” by ghastly scenes of CGI-created mass carnage as Iron Man cleverly evades annihilation. And what we allow our youngsters to figuratively take part in via brutal and gruesome video games is sickening. Even before they start 1st grade most of our impressionable kids have been exposed to or have taken part in thousands of murders, shootings, stabbings and a wide variety of criminal acts courtesy of the Xbox Santa kindly delivered to them one Christmas morning. The Christian community has to bear the bulk of the blame. We stood by and let this occur right under our noses. Shameful.
A dangerous cesspool of trouble society keeps wanting to stick its toes in is euthanasia. Secularists deem assisted suicide humane and want it legalized. There’s a group called The Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization who consider the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian their champion. They once released a statement declaring: “Kevorkian’s martyrdom… will speed up the day when voluntary euthanasia for the dying is removed from the legal classification of ‘murder’ and recognized as a justifiable act of compassion.” It’s already permissible in the Netherlands. We Christians can’t be so foolish to think it could never be legalized here. No doubt the day’s coming when we’ll be branded heartless fanatics but we must remain steadfast in upholding the sixth commandment. “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). We should interpret that verse literally. Unassisted suicide is already epidemic in scope. The U.S. recorded 42,773 suicides in 2014 with only 1 in 25 attempts being successful. That means well over a million tried to take their own life! Can you imagine the totals if we were to give euthanasia the green light? We dare not take God’s plainly-stated will out of the equation. “The LORD both kills and gives life; he brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). In Ezekiel 18:4 God says, “Indeed! All lives are mine – the life of the father as well as the life of the son is mine.”
God has the final say in matters of life and death. There are tons of stories of people who survived their suicide attempt and went on to live happy, productive lives. The brilliant Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias is an example. He wrote “It was on a hospital bed in New Delhi, after I’d attempted suicide, that Jesus Christ tracked me down, the last person I expected to meet in that situation. Out of the sheer emptiness of my life and my sense of failure, I’d tried to end my life. I didn’t have the slightest intention of ‘getting religious.’ Yet in that desolate moment, unexpectedly a Bible was brought to me. There in that hospital room, as the Word of God was read to me, something within me cried out that this was not just what I needed, it was the truth.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no stodgy legalist. Doctors and nurses throughout history have ceased administering treatments and/or taking radical measures that kept a patient only technically alive after their brain stopped functioning. That’s not euthanasia because the person in question isn’t asking to be killed. That’s being merciful, allowing another human being to die with dignity. We mustn’t let death with dignity become a euphemism for euthanasia. The respected theologian J. I. Packer opined that euthanasia, as well as suicide, is a direct breach of God’s command. He wrote that “…euthanasia… is either suicide by remote control or murder based on the idea that we may lawfully ‘put people out of their misery’ just as we lawfully shoot horses or get vets to put pets to sleep. But we may not bracket a human being with horses or pets, even if he himself, in a pain-maddened moment, asks us to.”
Next we come to one of the most controversial topics of all – abortion. Begg wrote, “If suicide is an epidemic, abortion is a national disgrace on such a scale that the Nazi holocaust pales in statistical comparison.” According to the Guttmacher Institute (a special affiliate of Planned Parenthood which actively collects abortion data directly from providers) between 1973 and 2015 there were 56,405,766 legal abortions performed just in the United States! Alas, any debate between pro-life and pro-choice advocates ends up a shouting match. Most Christians are pro-life because of God’s sixth commandment but there are many who believe there are loopholes in His law. They’re mistaken because God doesn’t make mistakes. Now, if someone doesn’t believe in God they have no incentive to value the life of an unborn child. To them a fetus is just a mass of molecules. That way they sidestep the fact they’re okay with the murdering of children. But those who’ve been washed in the blood of Christ have been taught through the Holy Word that all human life is precious and, therefore, abortion should be considered an option only in the most extreme of circumstances (i.e. where the life of the mother is in jeopardy). A human being starts the process of arriving the nanosecond a male’s sperm enters a female’s egg and that baby shouldn’t have to wait nine months to receive their inalienable right to exist. Zacharias has often said in his lectures that some folks will, upon entering heaven’s gate, grill God about why He didn’t do more to alleviate pain and suffering on planet earth. God will answer, “I sent you countless numbers of souls who could’ve made a huge impact for good in your world but you wouldn’t even let them be born.”
It’s important to reassure those who’ve had to wrestle with the choice of abortion in their own lives that God is just as merciful when it comes to that particular sin as He is to all others once we accept the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, as atonement for every single one of our iniquities. Those who’ve been forgiven and justified before the Father through Christ should never allow sins we committed in the past to keep us from rejoicing in the soul-soaking floodwaters of His all-consuming love. If you’ve never turned your life over to Jesus, the time to do so is now. Don’t put it off any longer. If you’re already a child of the Heavenly Father, don’t let Satan harass you when he calls and insists you’ve got an outstanding balance on a bill that’s already been paid in full. He lies.
By the way, the Bible acknowledges 3 exceptions in the taking of human life that don’t violate the sixth commandment. They are manslaughter (the result of killing another in self-defense or by accident), defensive war and the exercise of capital punishment. That last exception is routinely being contested. But in Romans 13 Paul states clearly that God has ordained the institution of civil government and that we’re to comply with its mandates. In other words, all human authority is derived from God’s authority. The Lord told Noah, “Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in God’s image God has made humankind” (Genesis 9:6). God knew that removing fatal consequences would lead to lawlessness and even worse, a deterioration of the basic dignity of man. .C. S. Lewis wrote, “To be punished however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ought to have known better is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.” Begg opined, “Capital punishment should not be seen as being inflicted to gratify revenge but in order to serve justice and to preserve the sanctity of life and the well-being of human society.”
All this being said, no Christ-follower should think they’re off the hook when it comes to the sixth commandment. Jesus preached, “You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell” (Matthew 5:21-22). Have you ever gotten mad at someone? Of course. Have you ever called someone an idiot? Certainly. Jesus said when we do that we’re no better than a murderer. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:9-10). Sin is sin. Don’t get all high and mighty when it comes to homicide, suicide, euthanasia or abortion. Jesus taught that those are all outcroppings of our wicked hearts and that spreading gossip, engaging in malicious deeds or going off on someone in a fit of anger are just as despicable in the eyes of God. Our Savior expects us to set the bar as high as He did while He was living among us here on Terra Firma. We who are saved haven’t been given a free pass. We’re to hold ourselves accountable and we’re to subdue our sinful nature that wants to rear its hideous head all too often.
It should be obvious by now, especially in light of the Ten Commandments, that we “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But we can’t let ourselves be discouraged. The new life God has secured for us in Christ enables us to be transformed while the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives enables us to be conformed to the will of God. It doesn’t happen overnight. Believe me. I myself am truly a “work in progress.” But we have divine assurance that, as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, we’ll find our real treasure is God Himself and our greatest joy will be to delight Him by becoming increasingly obedient to His commands. And obedience requires daily effort on our part by faithfully reading His Holy Word, by praying for wisdom and guidance and by letting His light shine through us into this dark, fallen world. In essence we must be as patient with God as He is being with us. Begg wrote, “Remember, the Law is not a ladder up which we climb to forgiveness. It’s a mirror in which we see ourselves in need of a Savior and in need of the power of the Holy Spirit to clothe us in His righteousness.” Well said.