The other day a friend made the observation on Twitter that Herod snuggled up to believers hypocritically in order to murder babies (Matt 2:8). That tweet has got me thinking. Especially this week as I have contemplated the 6th Commandment. The Lord, in this commandment, demands that we not murder. He says it this way:
You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
That was way more anticlimactic than most of the commandments. The command seems straight forward and uncomplicated. If I am not murdering, I am obeying this commandment. Interestingly, however, Jesus in Matthew 5 and John in 1 John 3 bring us to the core of the issue here. This commandment is not primarily about the action of murdering another person. As with all the other commandments, this command gets passed by the outward act and leads us to what is happening inside a person's heart.
You see, this command doesn't forbid just murder but all the attitudes that lead to murder. We know from all over the Bible that the Lord does not just search out the actions of a people, but he sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12). What Scripture makes clear is that murder is a symptom of a person infected with hate and anger. Thus, murder with the hands is forbidden but not only that, hatred and anger. This is a condemnation not just of murder but of the attitudes that lead up to murder.
If this command is a denunciation of all the attitudes leading to murder, then positively, it is a summons for us to love our neighbor. Positively, the 6th Commandment is enjoining us to seek the welfare of our neighbors. Later on in the Law there will be commands to put a fence around your roof. The reason for the fence is insure that no one falls off the roof when hosting people. That law flows from this commandment. We are to be a people who are about promoting life.
The reality that we are to be about life takes on so many different dimensions. What does it look like to promote life in our families and homes? Do we take care to make sure our home is safe for visitors that come in our doors? What kind of words do we use in our homes? Are they words that promote the life and wellbeing of others or do they cut down? How do we promote life in a world filled with death? Are we truly pro-life or are we just pro-birth? Do we just want to see a baby born or do we care for the woman and her child after that birth? Even when thinking about the current political and racial tensions in our country. How do we promote life in these areas? The 6th Commandment calls us to be people that promote life. How that works itself in different situations will be different everyone, but that we be about life does not change.
However, the command is not just interested in us promoting physical life. You see, if God cares not only about the outward action but the inward attitude, he also cares about the state of the heart. There is a great zeal in this command for the physical body, but we know that even more that the body the Lord cares about the eternal soul. The 6th Commandment is not just about promoting life in the body, but we should be a people who care deeply promote the life of the soul. We should be about spreading the Gospel to our neighbors. How can we say we love our neighbors and want to see them thrive, yet we will not share the Gospel with thing them? The 6th Commandment calls us to promote life, and that means not just physical life but spiritual life. We must be a people who preach the Gospel to see the life giving effects of it.
After I read the tweet from my friend earlier this week, all the ways that we cozy up to the Herods of this world struck me. Everything from making politically expedient choices to avoiding speaking Gospel truth for fear of losing friendships. It may seem easy and wise to snuggle up to Herod, but Herod is always out to murder babies and we are to promote life.
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