the commandments. today.
As we carry on our series of posts on the 10 Commandments, we come to one that, honestly, most of us will feel as though we have kept:
‘You shall not murder.’ (Deuteronomy 5:17)
The Big Idea
This one seems pretty simple. Murder is murder, and it is wrong. So the people were told not to do it. But to ask what could be a silly question: why is murder wrong? In a culture where death was often a lot closer at hand because of less advanced medicine, less safe living conditions and threats from other nations, death could seem less serious so murder could seem less serious too.
But ultimately the reason God gives this commandment is that He created life, not us, and we do not have the right to take it. God has placed His image within everyone, and so for the people to choose to disregard that and remove a life is to take responsibility for something where only God should.
In the New Testament, Jesus has this to say: “You have heard that it was said…’You shall not murder’… But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment…if you insult a brother or sister…if you say ‘You fool'” (Matthew 5:21-22). Here is where perhaps we can be less confident about our keeping the Commandment!
But the same thing is really going on. To take anger, insults and punishment for someone into our own hands is to do something that only God has the right to do. He is judge, not us. To insult or to keep resentment and bitterness instead of forgiving is to disrespect the fact that a person is made in God’s image and assumes a superiority that is not ours to take. It’s a challenge!
Obeying it Today
How then do we put this commandment into practice?
Don't hold on to hurts
Anger is not always wrong! There are things that should make us angry because they make God angry and they are wrong. But to make the choice to hold on to that (more often it looks like not making the choice to let go of that) takes us down a dangerous path. We are called to forgive, to allow others and ourselves to move past a hurt and on to freedom from it.
When anger turns to bitterness or resentment, we rob others of a chance to move on, and rob ourselves of the opportunity for peace. In the extreme that might lead to murder, but even when not extreme the heart is one that God does not want us to have. It’s a choice.
Don't look for people's worst
We’ve mentioned a few times that people are made in God’s image, and that this fact should lead us not to assert our own right to judge or take action over them. Honestly this can sometimes be really hard to see, when someone’s faults or frustrations seem far more evident. So we have to choose to look for it in someone else.
Instead of comparing our best with their worst, flip it on its head. Look for the very best part of them, choose to celebrate it and point it out, and also remember the parts of ourselves that are not so perfect either. As a way of life, it can help us to get in balance the way we view ourselves and others and help to avoid us treading a dangerous path.
Some things we can do…
- It might be we need to make a choice to forgive someone today. Have a think. Is there someone you need to make a choice to forgive, to let something go now.
- If there is someone you feel you might be in danger of going down the wrong path with all this, get a piece of paper out and consciously make a list of things about them in which you can see the image of God. What about them is good and is to be celebrated. Allow God to use the list to change your heart.
- Pray that your temper, your reactions and your engagement with others would be shaped by God’s heart, not your own temperament.