It is important to note that the command is absolute, and not only is the accomplished fact of murder condemned, but also every act that endangers human life, whether arising from carelessness (Dt. 22.8) or irresponsibility (Lev. 19.14), or from hatred, anger and revenge (Lev. 19.17,18). All killing is a serious matter indeed, but murder is specifically the wilful and premeditated assault on human life. Cities of refuge were established, not to give protection to the murderer, but to allow proper judgement of the ease to distinguish between the murderer and the one who killed his neighbour accidentally, without hatred or intent to harm (Num. 35.9-34).
Clearly the state also has responsibility to protect its citizens from aggression from without. But it must be clearly stated that, however just or necessary capital punishment or war nay seem to be, they are never "good" in themselves and can just as easily become an expression of, rather than a punishment for, human sinfulness.
There are many issues involved here. But is should be clear that this present command forbids the termination. of human life at whatever stage, and the civil authorities have a responsibility to protect that life. It is not for us to play God and to decide that a new life is not convenient or that an old life has passed its usefulness. Yet, in protecting life, we are also responsible to consider the quality of life. The Christian is called, not simply to refrain from killing, but to give himself in positive love.
Kathy Malloy wrote, "I'm a housewife and a registered nurse from Jacksonville. I worked the 11pm to 7am shift, and when we weren't busy, I'd go out to help with the newborns. One night I saw a bassinet outside the nursery. There was a baby in this bassinet a crying, perfectly formed baby but there was a difference in this child. She had been scalded. She was the child of a saline abortion.
"This little girl looked as if she had been put in a pot of boiling water. No doctor, no nurse, no parent, to comfort this hurt, burned child. She was left alone to die in pain. They wouldn't let her in the nursery they didn't even bother to cover her.
"I was ashamed of my profession that night! I thought a hospital was a place to heal the sick not a place to kill "
I am sorry if sharing this story has painful associations for any of you. God knows and understands your situation. But we do need to understand how he feels about what we hide behind white gowns and nice words.
Today we also hear nice words about euthanasia. Listen to what Dr. Leo Alexander, consultant to the office of the Chief of Counsel for War Crimes, wrote about how German physicians started a trend which resulted in the euthanasia of 275,000 people before the Second World War began:
"It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans. But it is important to realise that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitable sick."
So, by way of illustration, Jesus makes clear that the sixth commandment goes beyond murder and physical violence. It includes both concealed anger and the hurled insult. Just as, in the previous study, murder itself is to be seen as a gross sin against the sanctity of human life since human beings are made in God's image, so too these attitudes and acts that deliberately destroy or wound the soul and spirit of a person, no matter how justified they may seem to be in our eyes, are a gross sin in the sight of God. They may be (and usually are) beyond the jurisdiction of earthly courts, but will bring the sternest judgments of God!
Clarence Darrow, a famous criminal lawyer, once said, "Everyone is a potential murderer. I have not killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction out of obituary notices."
Jesus had earlier pronounced a blessing on the merciful (v.7) that blessing is available to the one wronged. But these words are directed to the one in the wrong. An unrepentant attitude may will lead to full penalties (vv. 25,26), as well as the fact that we cannot expect God to accept us or our worship as long as we harbour anger and resentment in our heart against anyone else. In the Lord's Prayer we are taught to ask for forgiveness on the basis of our own willingness to forgive (6.12,l4,15). This is not unrelated to today's passage, for an unforgiving spirit is probably the major way in which we harbour resentment.