The FBI reports that in 2019 there were 16,425 murders in the United States. And by all accounts, although not officially released by the FBI, 2020 was significantly worse. For perspective, that’s an average of 5 murders per every 100,000 folks. But the numbers hide the tragedy in the taking of each one of those 16,425 lives by another. The 6th commandment simply says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13, NASB95)
The first sin was deliberately doubting God’s word when Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit. And if the second sin was blaming others for that sin. Then the third sin recorded in the Bible is the murder of Abel by Cain (Genesis 4:1-15). The intentional taking of human life by another is as old as the human race. It is something that nearly everyone finds abhorrent, and yet it still happens.
It is also important to mention a number that is not included in the FBI statistics but is by definition also murder, the intentional taking of human life by another. In 2018, the most current year on record at the CDC, there were 619,591 abortions reported in the United States. That’s the equivalent of wiping the city of Portland, Oregon from the map. Ironically, it is also about the same number of Americans who have died from Covid as of this writing. Abortion is a silent pandemic of death.
Murder is bad and shouldn’t ever happen. Jesus, however, expanded the boundaries of this commandment. Matthew records Jesus teaching, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21–22, NASB95)
Anytime we diminish someone else, we are committing a kind of murder. We may not be taking their life, but we are destroying something such as their voice, worth, or reputation. Some may see this next statement as a bit of a stretch; just think about it. By Jesus’ definition, the current trend to cancel or silence others because of their perspective on certain issues is a form of murder.
What do we see when we look at this commandment through the lens of loving our neighbors as ourselves? The way of love isn’t taking but giving. If the greatest taking is ending life, then the greatest love is giving life. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NASB95) Instead of taking someone’s voice, love requires us to listen. Instead of taking someone’s worth, love requires us to amplify it. Instead of taking someone’s reputation, love requires us to cover the weakness of others (1 Peter 4:8).
For most readers this commandment may seem the easiest to keep. Murder is simply something you wouldn’t intentionally choose to commit. Yet, by Jesus’ definition, we are tempted to violate this commandment through anger, expressing demeaning labels (you fool), and gossip. None of us may ever intentionally murder, but all of us have fallen prey to its roots.
Allow me to express this important truth. While I earlier connected abortion with murder, it is important to recognize God’s grace, forgiveness, and healing. God’s Word promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NASB95) The same is true for this sin regardless of the form or circumstances. God loves you even if you’ve had or helped with an abortion. His forgiveness is extended to you through His abundant amazing grace. The only criteria are that you agree with God (confess) that your actions or words are sin. You are forgiven through the cross of Jesus Christ.