Heidi: Welcome. This podcast episode was recorded before the pandemic started. We hope you all are well.
Jani: Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and Heidi Howerton, where you can find encouragement for your busy life through God’s renewing mercies.
Heidi: Hello everyone. Heidi Howerton is here with my wonderful co host, Jani Ortlund. We’re so glad to have you with us today. Whether you are standing at the sink, doing dishes or driving your children to school, or getting off of work in the late afternoon, we always feel humbled and honored that you would come and even just spend some time with us as we look at the Lord’s Word, and ultimately ask him to feed us and to restore our souls. And so we pray that that’s what he would do for us again today.
Jani: Yes, we’ve been going through this series on the 10 Commandments. And we’ve heard from several of you Thanks for letting us know how this is helping you. We love studying God’s Word because we know that’s where soul restoration begins.
Our Topic Today: Murder
Today we’re talking about a little heavier topic, murder. I’ll just lay it right out there. We’re talking about the sixth commandment which says, “You shall not murder,” from Exodus 20:13. Now before you turn off the podcast, let me tell you, you’re going to want to hang on and listen in and find out what the Lord means by this commandment. What does it mean to murder someone? And how this is his loving law to us, how He loves us through giving us this commandment.
I’d like to start with a story of some friends whom we met when Ray was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Lawrence and Ruth, and their four young children came all the way from Kenya for Lawrence to study at Trinity. And Ruth and I became very good friends. Oh, she is precious. I haven’t seen her for years but I still hold her close to my heart.
I remember as Ruth and I were getting to know each other how shocked I was when she told me that when she and Lawrence and her children landed in Chicago, Illinois, and had to get off of the airplane, she was terrified because she thought as soon as they got off the airplane, they would encounter gunfights and carnage because she had heard that America was full of murder. Well, no wonder with all the TV shows and videos and movies that we export all over the world, of course she would think that. Soon she learned she would be safe in America.
But for many people outside the USA, we are known as the most violent nation on Earth. Is it any wonder? Think of our newscasts, even. Think of our entertainment industry. It is estimated that by the time a child is 18 years old, he will have witnessed over 200,000 acts of violence on television alone. We—our families, our schools, sometimes, our neighborhoods—are surrounded by death. Indeed, we live in a culture of death at times.
Edith Schaefer is one of my heroes and she put it this way:
“It is the constant presence of death that spoils the understanding of life. It’s not meant to be so.”Edith Schaefer
The Sanctity of Life
Now we come to the sixth commandment. God, in love, reveals himself as the God who values life. From this little, tiny four-word command comes a river of biblical themes. It teaches us that we are not to injure ourselves or others in any way at all.
You see, the sanctity of human life is at the root of the Christian ethic. In the very first chapter of God’s Word, we see that God is the sovereign Author of life who alone has the right and power to give life. We read in Genesis 1:27,
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, He created him; male and female, he created them.”Genesis 1:27
The Bible teaches us in other places that all life comes from God. From Noah’s day on God has required a reckoning for the life of a man.
Heidi, will you read Genesis 9:6?
“Whoever sheds the blood of man by man, shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”Genesis 9:6
Jani: There is an account to settle for the life of every human being.
We are Image Bearers
You see, we are image bearers of God. What does that mean? That means his image is stamped upon every human being. Every person is created in God’s likeness, and thus, by virtue of being human, possesses a divinely assigned dignity that does not not depend on personal character or abilities. When I look at another human being, when you look at another human being, we are looking at a little bit of God, and that person is worthy of honor because of whom that person represents.
In this commandment, God loves us by teaching us the value of human life: my life, Heidi’s life, your life, and he loves us even further by requiring us to protect all of life, including our own. You see, we serve a God who commands us never to harm another, with our actions, with our thoughts, with our words, or even with indifference.
Ways to Break this Commandment
The Bible teaches there are many ways to break this commandment.
1. With our Actions
The first way is with our actions, which is what we think of right away when we think of the word murder. It’s obvious that this command demands that we not take another’s life. This includes homicide, abortion, and euthanasia. Every human being, including the sick, the young, the helpless, and the disabled, is made in the image of God, and is of in estimable value in God’s sight.
What about abortion?
Heidi: Jani, I just want to come in with a quick question because I know some of our listeners hearts might be heavy because they’ve had abortions and their hearts might mourn over it, and so even that you mentioning that I just know that there’s all different things that we struggle with. If you had a sweet woman sitting across from you just bearing her soul and crying and saying she made a mistake in the past and it makes her sick to her stomach, what would you say to her encourage her? What what truth could you point her to?
Jani: Oh, that’s such a good question, Heidi. We mourn with those who mourn. First, I would just weep with her and say, “Of course, your heart is sad.” But how wonderful that it’s soft enough to be sad. That is from the Lord. And if you have asked him to forgive you, he has. And if you go back to that place and wonder and fight over it in your own spirit, then ask yourself, “Is that struggle from Jesus, or is it from Satan? Is Satan tempting you to despair and doubt God’s sufficiency on the cross to forgive this sin?“ Or is this from Jesus? Is he saying you have to keep asking him over and over again? No, we know the answer! Jesus bore this on the cross. You don’t need to bear it any longer if you’ve brought it to him.
Heidi: I just love Romans 8:1,
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”Romans 8:1
I remember we were in Bible study one time together, Jani, and I was sharing about some sin that I was struggling with. And I remember you looking at me and saying, “Heidi, whenever that comes to mind, you say, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for Heidi who is in Christ Jesus.’” And so I just speak that over our listeners, too, whether it’s abortion or some other sin. We all have sins that eat us away. Praise God that there is therefore now no condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus.
Jani: That’s so good, Heidi. I love that word now. Not when I get my act together, not when I get my confession perfect or repeat it for the 53rd time. But now, right now. Oh, thank you, Heidi, for sharing that.
Well, the Bible teaches that the only time that killing is truly justifiable, is in the cases of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense. In other words, the killing is necessary for the preservation of life.
2. With our Thoughts
Now, some of you might be thinking, “I’m good, I’m safe here. I’ve kept this command. I haven’t killed anyone. Let’s go on to the next one. This is one commandment I can really keep.” But you know, when God’s law prohibits the evil act, it prohibits the impulse as well. Isn’t that something? God understands that every evil act springs from an evil impulse within. So let’s think of other ways of breaking this command without actually taking someone’s life.
Did you know that you can murder someone with your thoughts?
Heidi: It makes me think of 1 John 3:15:
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer…”1 John 3:15
Jani: Wow. I guess that includes me.
Heidi: Me, too.
Jani: How about those verses in Leviticus? Heidi would you read Leviticus 19:17-18?
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”Leviticus 19:17-18
Jani: Hmm “…unless you incur the sin, because of him,” if you hate him in your heart. You shouldn’t hold a grudge. Oh my goodness, how many grudges have I held in my 70 years of life? Whoa!
How about in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'” Jesus says to us, that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Not one of us can escape the force of these words. When God’s law prohibits the evil act, it prohibits the impulse as well.
The Root of the Problem
You see, we are all murderers. We have murdered others through anger, hatred, and grudges.
For instance, let me just throw this one out there. Maybe some of us fight against abortion because of the evil we think that it is. And that’s right. But how do you feel about the abortionist? Do you hate him or her in your heart? You see, God hates the root of murder; not just the act but the root of the act. Murder starts in the heart. We’re all too familiar with the expression, “If looks could kill.”
The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” calls us to examine ourselves right down to the root of the problem. Can you face this, can I face this? You see, we are not nice people who have a bad thought now and then. Instead, you see, we are evil people proving who we truly are, unable to control the anger and hatred that springs up so readily from within our hearts.
And there is a kind of genteel violence that we dish out to each other which the laws of the state do not and should not confront, but which God’s law searchingly confronts. Think of Galatians 5,
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: enmity, strife, jealousy ,fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, division, envy, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”Galatians 5:19-21
Do Christians behave like that? Do you? I know I do. We all do. Think of the last time someone cuts you off in traffic. Why do you think we need machines to give us numbers for service at the corner deli?
3. With our Words
Not only do we murder others with our actions and thoughts, we can murder someone with our words.
Heidi, will you read Matthew 5:21-23?
“You have heard that it was set of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”Matthew 5:21-23
Jani: Wow, with words, insults or name calling. How many times have you called someone a name either in your own heart or out of their range of hearing, or for that matter to their face? The anger that produces that outburst shows what murderers we all truly are. The Bible plainly connects those who gossip and slander with those who hate God. Gossip and slander are not only rampant on the newsstand, how many churches have been troubled, even divided by someone murdering another with her tongue? You see, God loves us in this commandment by telling us how to treat each other.
One of our Puritan fathers put it this way. His name was Thomas Watson:
“It is a great cruelty to murder a man in his name. It is an irrepairable injury. No physician can heal the wounds of the tongue.”Thomas Watson
There’s a story I’ve heard of a young man who came to a monk, upset with himself over how he had spread a bad report about another one of his brothers. The monk told the young man to take a bag of feathers and put one on the doorstep of all whom he thought had heard his words. When the young man had finished, he returned to the monk asking him what he should do next. The monk told him to go retrace his steps and retrieve all those feathers. Well, you can imagine the young man’s reaction, he grew quite agitated exclaiming, “That’s impossible! By now the feathers have blown all over town.” “Exactly,” said the monk, “…and so with your words, they are impossible to retrieve.”
Why do we gossip and slander?
Why do we gossip? Why do we slander? Why do we hurt people with our tongues?
The Bible links busy bodies with gossip. We love to be in the know. Gossip feeds our natural curiosity. Somehow it also raises my own status by lowering another’s in my own twisted, evil heart. I can feel better about myself if I make you look bad. I’m so sorry to admit that, but sometimes that’s the way I think. Oh, I need Jesus and how I need this commandment.
Why do we slander another? Usually because we’re angry, we feel misused or misunderstood. We want to justify ourselves and the only way we can is by showing how wrong another person is and how right we are. Dear listener, the words of slander can murder someone’s reputation, just as a sword can murder someone’s body.
Heidi: Proverbs 12:18 says,
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”Proverbs 12:18
Jani: Whoa, rash words like the wounds of a sword.
Morally what’s the difference between a ghetto drive-by shooting and a church where people commit character assassination through slander? A cell phone can be just as much a murder weapon as a gun. What God sees are nasty murderers versus nice murderers. That’s all. We all bite, devour and destroy one another. Who has not broken the sixth commandment?
4. Through Negligence
Actions, thoughts and words can all be used as murder weapons. We also can murder others through negligence. I don’t want to take too long on this, but I do want to point this out. We can murder someone through sins of omission as well as by sins of comission. Think of the story of the Good Samaritan. There are really several criminals in this parable—the original thugs who beat and robbed this poor traveler—but think of the two other men who passed by leaving him for dead when they could have helped him. All it takes to break this command is to do nothing at all when the need is presented.
Instead, Be a “Life-Giver”
So let’s turn the podcast now and talk about how we can live out this commandment in a positive way. God is not just telling us not to murder, but he’s telling us we should be a little life givers. We must do everything in our power to see to the health and welfare of our families and neighbors, as well as do everything to live life well ourselves. We must be life-givers.
First, how we give life to ourselves. I want to tell you a story about Heidi because she helps me give life to myself. Today, even today, we’ve had a long work day, haven’t we Heidi?
Heidi: Yes, we’ve been working for the past few hours.
Jani: …and your question to me was “Jani, I just think you need to have more fun. What would you like to do? What would be fun to you? How could I help you have more fun?” And you didn’t realize it but you were helping me think how I could obey the sixth commandment by giving life to myself. You were a life-giver to me.
Isn’t that such a delight that the Lord gives us passions and things we enjoy? This whole wonderful world is full of such life. What a gift that we get to enjoy that from him.
Yes, and we obey this commandment by doing that.
I think some of our listeners might find themselves where I find myself where I rob myself of life sometimes. I allow myself to live under such stress and fatigue, that it could take my health or take time out of my life or days out of my life.
“How can I be a life-giver?”
So let’s think how can we be life-givers, living life well ourselves? Let me recommend just a few ways that have helped me.
1. Be Patient with the Hand of God
First, I have to be patient with the hand of God. I have have to let him be God and not fuss when he doesn’t do things according to the way that I think he should.
For instance, think of David in 1 Samuel 24 when he finds Saul and he could kill him. David knew he was going to be the next king of Israel. He could have thought, “Oh, God put Saul right here, so that I could kill him and ascend to the throne.” But no, he spares Saul’s life because he was remembering this commandment, you shall not take another person’s life.
To live in an attitude of trusting God is really protection of your own life. The Bible says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently.” “Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way over the man who carries out evil devices, refrain from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil.” So we need to be patient with the hand of God.
2. Have a cheerful spirit
Did you know that another way to be a life-giver to yourself is to have a cheerful spirit? Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Oh, isn’t that kind of the Lord, that He helps us obey this command by having a cheerful heart?
3. Do not envy
One way we can weaken our lives by disobeying this command is found in Proverbs 14:30, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” You see, envy corrodes us inside where no one can see. Envy is to the body what termites are to the foundation of a home and it can eat away our life.
4. Preserve your life
A third way we can disobey this command is through neglecting our body through intemperance of any sort, or through excesses in diet. It has been said that many dig their graves with their mouths. Are you willing to obey this command by preserving your own life through healthy habits of diet and exercise? You see, self-hatred is really self-murder. And the Bible prohibits this in any form.
Heidi: That’s so helpful, Jani. I think especially, we as women, we’re so prone to self-hatred and self-murder. Even this past week I told Mike “Oh, I’m struggling with this…When I look in the mirror and I see this…” but how helpful to really think that when I say those negative things about myself, and dwell on them, in a sense, it’s disobeying the sixth commandment,
Jani: It is. We need to really understand that God called hatred the same as murder because it’s taking life, it’s draining and depleting life. We can learn to think differently about ourselves because we’re in his image and he wants us to rest in that and be pleased with that.
How to be a Life-Giver to Others
Well, let’s talk finally about how we can give life to others. We’ve talked about giving it to ourselves. Let’s end our podcast today by talking about how we can be a life giver to others.
Where can you bring more life? Who needs your heart, your time, your words, your money? What can we do to promote life? To cherish and honor and care and protect this gift from God?
Here are some suggestions that Heidi and I have. You might be able to add to this list as well. Well, let’s be women who pray and work on behalf of the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled. Let’s protect the innocent. We dare not stand by while others are injured, otherwise, we participate in their harm. Proverbs 31 puts it this way,
“Open your mouth for the mute the rights of all who are destitute, open your mouth, judge righteously defend the rights of the poor and the needy.”Proverbs 31:8-9
Another way you can do this is by helping those children whom you so long to see born rather than aborted. Our responsibility does not end in the labor room. Many children need foster care. Many children need adoption. When we see to the necessities of others, we are obeying this commandment. There are many ways we can’t be like God, but we can be merciful to and kind to those who are near us. Ask God to give you eyes to see the suffering around you. Open your heart to another’s heart and give your time and love and kindness and mercy and energy. This is God’s call to us in the sixth commandment.
The opposite of Murder is…?
All right, here is one final thought as we bring this to a close: What does it mean to be a life-giver to your neighbor? Jesus says the opposite of hatred, the opposite of murder is love. Heidi, will you read Romans 13:8-10 please?
“For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”Romans 13:8-10
I love that, Jani. What’s the opposite of the sixth commandment (you shall not murder)? It’s You shall love Your neighbor.
Jani: Isn’t that wonderful? And I have to ask us all do we even know our neighbors?
One of the things God is calling to us in this series is to go a little bit deeper, a little bit farther, and this commandment encourages us to love our neighbors. We want our words to bring life to others. How can we help others toward heaven? What can we say that will bring healing, that will be life-giving to another? Does someone you know need words of kindness or words of healing, words of forgiveness, words of life?
Be a “There you are!” Person ?
Heidi: Jani, I can’t help but think of the common phrase—I think it comes from Ann and Ray Sr. Ortlund—that we want to be “there you are” a person versus the “here I am” person, meaning when you walk into a room, do you have the mentality of here I am, and I want people to notice me? Or do we say, there you are. Let me go see who the Lord has put in this room. That always helps me, even as I’m in conversation ,sometimes I’ll hear that. “Oh, Heidi be a there you are person.” This helps me reflect back on them and to their story. How can I love them? How can I get to know them better?
Jani: Yes, that helps me, too. We learned that from Ray’s youth pastor Chuck Miller at Lake Avenue Church way back in the late 60s, early 70s. He taught us to be there you are person not a here I am person. I don’t think he knew he was teaching us how to obey the sixth commandment, but he was!
One final Reminder
Well, let me close it this way, dear listener, how can we ever be all that this short command in these four words require? We can’t. Who hasn’t broken this commandment in thought, or word or deed? No one but Jesus. He was oppressed and afflicted. Yet like a lamb led to the slaughter he opened not his mouth. He was murdered though he only gave life. He absorbed the sins of murderers and is now transferring his loving grace onto us as we turn to him. He has gone before us obeying this commandment perfectly. He, Jesus Christ our Lord, is the ultimate life-giver. And we get to enjoy his forgiveness for our own murderous actions, thoughts, words, or negligence, and then to learn to give life to ourselves and others. Oh, may he restore our souls as we seek to be life-givers.