Love Hurts

If you seek to love as Jesus loves, you will not lead a painless life.  It’s not that love itself hurts, but that your love for others will encounter hurt.

Why does love encounter hurt?  Because people often do not respond to love the way they should.  Have you noticed?

Search the teachings of Jesus and you will find very little instruction about how to love those who love you.  No one needs instruction in that.  It comes naturally.  Parents who have constantly obedient children do not need to be exhorted to love their children.  Workers who have kind and patient bosses do not need to be exhorted to love and serve their bosses.  Husbands who have wives fully and affectionately devoted to them do not need to be exhorted to love their wives.  In short, if all our neighbors loved us, God would not need to teach us how to love our neighbors.  It would come naturally.  Only ingrates do not love those who love them.

The signature event in the life of Jesus of Nazareth was, of course, His crucifixion.  The context of that event included the many miracles He had performed, which were essentially good deeds freely distributed to saint and sinner alike.  In return for this unparalleled generosity and kindness, the society of His day condemned, tortured, and killed Him.  Whereupon He rose from the dead three days later offering complete forgiveness to them…and to the entire world.  If we’re going to claim that we love our neighbor, this is the standard against which we’re going to have to measure ourselves.

Jesus’ great love for us brought great hurt to Himself.  Yet His love endured that hurt.  It is this kind of love about which we are in need of instruction.

Righteousness Is Love

Prior to Jesus Christ, the Israelites thought of God as righteous.  They also knew that God loved them.  However, in Jesus Christ they could finally see that to say “God is righteous” and to say “God is love” is to say the same thing.

Even today, there are those who think of God as righteous and there are those who think of Him as love, but it seems that there are few who think of Him as both.  And of those who do think of God as fully embodying both qualities, they think it’s some kind of balancing act for Him – that He has to carefully maintain His balance, having one foot planted in righteousness and the other foot planted in love.

The reality is that to be completely righteous is to love to the limit, and to fully love is to be steadfastly righteous.  This is what the life of Jesus reveals.  And as it is with God, so it must be with us.

Modern society has a hard time grasping this simple truth about the rightness of love because it has so distorted the meaning of love.  People use the word “love” to describe a feeling, or even to describe a lust.  Yet love is an act of the will that benefits another rather than self – a decision that results in a commitment that is kept.  This commitment results in actions, but actions that could just as easily bring pain as pleasure.  Love endures all things – it does not enjoy all things.  Love does what is right, even when it feels terrible.

Therefore, if we would be righteous, we must be loving.  If we would be loving, we must be righteous.  In order to fully understand this, look to Jesus.  In Him, we can see that righteousness and love – true righteousness and true love – are the very same thing.  He was righteous because He always did the loving thing; He embodied love because He always did what was right.

May the sunlight of His example always shine in our minds, so as to guide our feet in the way of peace.

Ten Commandments: #8 – No Stealing

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we have come to the eighth.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

The commandment “Do not steal” is certainly among the easiest of the ten to understand.  Who cannot understand “Don’t steal”?

A sense of property rights comes early and naturally in life; one of the first sentences one child utters to another is “That’s mine!” just before turning to an adult and crying, “He took my (fill in the blank)!”

As we grow older, we become aware that stealing can take more subtle forms.  We can steal time from family in order to advance ourselves at work, or we can steal time from work to redeem ourselves at home.  In either case, it’s stealing and it’s wrong.

Some people attempt to whitewash their stealing, as when fudging on taxes is justified “because the government is already getting enough money.”  And some politicians make an entire career out of presenting themselves as Robin Hood:  “Vote for me and I’ll tax rich folks more so folks like you can be better off.”  Sadly, a democracy can be corrupted by Tom and Dick ganging up to take from Harry.  Yet stealing is stealing no matter how hard you work justify or disguise it.

A thief can be rich or poor because stealing is not a matter of how much you have or don’t have before you do the stealing.  All that matters is are you taking something that is not yours.  Greed is an equal-opportunity temptation; any person who thinks he’s exempt from it is self-deceived.

Children who are taught to respect the property rights of their parents and siblings will find it relatively easy to respect property rights of others once they’re grown and operating in the world.  And while it’s important to teach children to share, it must be done in a context of respecting the property rights of others – otherwise, the sharing loses its meaning.  If everything belongs to everyone then you’re not being generous when you share; you’re just taking turns with community property.  If, however, something is truly yours then the Lord will bless your soul for letting someone else use it because you are truly being generous.

Implicit in the command not to steal is a promise of the Lord’s provision for our lives.  That is, we don’t steal…and we don’t need to steal, because the Lord will always make sure our needs are met.  We know that we can obtain whatever shelter, clothing, and food we need through righteous means and will never need to resort to unrighteous means.  Thus adherence to the eighth commandment leads us to seek honest labor.

Before leaving the subject of stealing, we ought also to consider that just as we should not steal from people, neither should we steal from God.  All things belong to Him…including us!  We are His creatures.  When we seek autonomy, therefore, we are stealing what is His and trying to make it our own.  This concept is dealt with in the fourth commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy but also is addressed in “You shall not steal.”  No creature in his right mind seeks autonomy; it’s what made Frankenstein a monster.

You belong to God twice: once because He made you and again because He redeemed you.  Don’t steal from Him; let Him keep what is His.  There is no doubt He will be generous.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Ten Commandments: #7 – No Adultery…Summing Up

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we conclude our discussion of the seventh.  As I wrote yesterday, our modern-day sexual rebellion (often called “The Sexual Revolution”) is essentially nothing more than a rejection of the Ten Commandments, and particularly of the prohibition against adultery.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

The sexual rebellion is a lie about human sexuality, propped up with the lies of secularism, feminism, multiculturalism (pluralism), progressivism, and other ideologies.  The common thread of all these lies is a rejection of Christ and His ways.  Progressive Christians exchange Christian values for progressive ones, but retain a Christian vocabulary to describe what is essentially a secular view.  Secularism even finds explicit Christian supporters by getting them to agree that their Christianity must be practiced in private and cannot be allowed to guide social interactions, lest we violate the dictates of pluralism.  Modern society considers racism and bigotry practically the only sins worth talking about while its sexual ethics literally have more in common with Hugh Hefner’s than with those of Jesus of Nazareth.  Literally.

If we are going to keep God’s commandments, we are going to have to go to Jesus and stick with Him.  Do we think He was ignorant of sexual issues because He was never married?  Do we think that He’s not a trustworthy source on such matters because He wasn’t scientifically astute enough in the 1st century to realize that human beings are the product of evolution and sexual orientation is a fixed characteristic with which we were born?  Do we really think that the God who gave Israel circumcision as the sign of His covenant has never thought much about sex?  Do we really think that only with the advent of science are we able to understand what constitutes normal and moral sexual behavior?

God has very clear and very simple rules about sexual relations and these were communicated from the very beginning.  As Jesus put it:

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
–  Matthew 19:4-6

Modern American society would have us throw this elegant design out the window.  You, however, want to obey the commandments of God.  Therefore, you can choose the prevailing sexual mores of the United States of America or you can choose the seventh commandment.  They cannot be reconciled because the former is in essence a rejection of the latter.

Think through every change in American sexual attitudes of the past fifty years and you will find that they can all be traced back to a defiance of what’s written in Jesus’ words above.  Transgenderism, same-sex marriage, divorce-on-demand – you name it.  Every one is a departure from the sexual ethics taught by Jesus.

Some people claim that Jesus never explicitly denounced homosexuality.  Neither did He explicitly denounce incest, pedophilia, or bestiality.  He didn’t need to explicitly denounce these things because they are all rejections of what He did teach.   Math books do not teach all the wrong answers to 2 + 2.  It is enough to teach the right answer.  Every other answer is, ipso facto, wrong.  Marital intimacy belongs in marriage.  And nowhere else.  Marriage is husband and wife.  And nothing else.

The seventh commandment is very simple: “Do not commit adultery.”  There’s nothing complex about it.  And it hasn’t changed since the beginning of creation, though Jesus did intensify it by disallowing adulterous thoughts as well as adulterous deeds.  By contrast, what’s called “the Sexual Revolution” is very complicated…and keeps changing all the time.  It constantly has something new to teach us about how human civilization has had it wrong all along.

God’s ways are simple and straightforward.  If you’re going to follow them, you must be prepared to ignore the siren song of modernized sexual ethics.  The main reason that we’ve gotten from two human beings to over seven billion is by, for the most part, doing things God’s way.  The sexual rebellion, by contrast, has no genuine concern for children; it cares only about pleasure.  In fact, children are not its object, they are its refuse.  Sex is about the adults involved and children are, at most, an afterthought.  In fact, the sexual rebellion can be characterized as adults sacrificing children at the altar of adult pleasure.  Even when children are sought, they are sought as accessories to the adult lifestyle – trophies for display to make the adults look like “good parents.”  The Sexual Revolution is a cornucopia of bad ideas disguised as good ones.

It’s not difficult to sum up a discussion of the seventh commandment.  What would be difficult is summing up all the perverse alternatives that the world offers in its place.

Do not commit adultery – in thought or deed.  Honor marriage.  It is the gift of God.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Ten Commandments: #7 – No Adultery…God’s Power for Marriage

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments.  Yesterday’s post was about the clear definition of marriage that Jesus gave.  Marriage is to be pure, and the seventh commandment is about keeping it pure.  Today’s post is about how He empowers us to keep the seventh commandment…and all the commandments, for that matter.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

Jesus did not come merely to restore our conception of marriage to the design God had given it in the beginning.  He came also to change our hearts, so that achieving God’s ideal for marriage would not be something too hard for us to achieve.  Jesus demonstrates His approach to the issue when He says, “…everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  That is, Jesus came to take our outward focus on marriage and make it first and foremost an inward focus.  Moses’ focus on the seventh commandment had to do with behavior, deeds, actions; Jesus’ focus on the seventh commandment has to do with thoughts, attitudes, desires.  Jesus’ strategy is simple: keep adultery out of your heart and you will not have any problem keeping it out of your life.  Control the inward and you control the outward.

How, someone will ask, can a man keep from thinking lustful thoughts about a woman?  Easy.  Easy?  Yes, easy.  By remembering that Jesus is watching you all the time.  Is that enough?  Sure.  How do I know?  First of all, by experience.  Second, you yourself already know that this is true because you know that men who think lustful thoughts about women other than their wives do so in the privacy of their thought lives, without regularly informing their wives about the thoughts.  It is precisely because such a man thinks his thoughts are completely hidden that he indulges them.  If a man had a video screen on his forehead that depicted what he was thinking, would he give more consideration to the purity of his thoughts?  Of course.  Well, as far as God is concerned, there is a video screen on our foreheads.  Staying aware of that video screen is what makes it easy to exercise control over the quality of our thoughts.

Take a more graphic application of Jesus’ admonition against lustful thoughts: pornography.  I have to laugh at the notion that many males are addicted to pornography.  It’s easy to find news stories today talking about men’s addiction to pornography, even among Christians – that with the Internet, pornography has reached an epidemic scale.  I don’t dispute that pornography is a problem, even a very big problem; I only dispute that it is an addiction.  It cannot be an addiction if a man, by an act of his will, can refrain from looking at it.  Yet many men who think they are addicted to pornography refrain from looking at it in the presence of their wives and mothers.  (Have often have you heard of a man compulsively looking at pornography with his wife or mother looking on?  No, they hide it!)   A man has the power to resist looking at it because he doesn’t want to deal with the repercussions of his wife or mother knowing about it – either he doesn’t want to hurt them, or he doesn’t want to be shamed before them, or both.  Therefore, all he has to do to resist pornography all the time is to decide that he doesn’t want to deal with the repercussions of his Lord and Savior knowing about it.  In other words, the man just needs the same respect and affection for Jesus as he has for his wife or mom.  God forbid that you are tempted by pornography, but if you are, don’t kid yourself that it is an addiction.  You can be free from it in an instant if you’ll just acknowledge that Jesus is real and that His opinion matters to you.  If you love Him at least as much as you love your wife or mother, you will not hurt Him by doing that which pains Him.

Think about it: you can be free from pornography if you love Jesus.  Don’t tell me you love me if you do what I hate to my face.  So, don’t tell yourself that you love Jesus if you do what He hates to His face.  Where is His face?  Everywhere.

This is how you keep pornography out of your thought life, how you keep adultery out of your thought life, and how you keep any sin out of your thought life.  And if you can keep something out of your thought life, you can keep it out of your behavior.

According to Jesus, the ability to obey God’s commandments begins in the thought life.  By acknowledging Jesus’ love for us and His forgiveness of our sins, we can love Him in return.  And we love Him by thinking thoughts that please Him and avoiding thoughts that cause Him sorrow.  Therefore, the power to have a godly marriage, to obey the seventh commandment, and to obey all God’s commandments is the power found in accepting His love…and reciprocating it.  Apart from this personal relationship dynamic with your Creator-Redeemer, you will never find sufficient power to consistently do that which He commands you to do.  With it, all things become possible.

…faith, hope, love, abide these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
–  1 Corinthians 13:13

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Ten Commandments: #7 – No Adultery…from Moses to Jesus

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments.  Today we continue talking about the seventh.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

When Moses gave the seventh commandment, it was clear and straightforward:  “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  There is no reason to assume that any Israelite adult was confused by this commandment or uncertain of what it meant.  Yet, in another part of Moses lengthy description of the laws that God wanted the nation of Israel to follow, there was a small provision about how to handle divorce.  The commandment against adultery implied that marriage was to be an exclusive lifelong commitment but allowing divorce seemed to weaken that concept.  Later, one of the prophets quoted God as saying “I hate divorce,” which strengthened the concept of permanence in marriage but increased the tension.  Why would God give a regulation for divorce if He hated it?

This tension continued into the 1st century when Jesus’ opponents decided to exploit it for the purpose of discrediting Him.  They would present Him with this interpretive dilemma and expect that He would be as uncertain about how to resolve it as they were – and that He would be unwilling to alienate any of His followers with His answer.  As it turned out, Jesus’ adversaries were wrong on both counts.  He had a clear view of how to reconcile the two positions, and He was unafraid of being politically incorrect…with His followers or anyone else.

Jesus said that Moses had allowed divorce because of the hardness of human hearts, but that it should be obvious from the creation account in Genesis that marriage was a bond that was never to be broken by human decision – whether by adultery or divorce.  Jesus was saying that because God allowed something or regulated did not mean that He approved of it.  Thus divorce was an old covenant accommodation to ancient Israel.  The new covenant that Jesus brought, however, made no allowance for divorce because it deals directly with the hardness of human hearts.  Jesus came for the specific purpose of changing our hearts.

Moses used the Ten Commandments to regulate human behavior, but Jesus uses them to regulate human hearts.  Moses sought to regulate human behavior without changing the heart; Jesus seeks to regulate human behavior by changing the heart.  Moses’ focus was on the leaves of the tree; Jesus’ focus was on the roots.

The new covenant has now been around for almost 2,000 years, but we have wandered from its focus – and all the more so in the last generation.  When I was young, our nation’s laws made it hard to divorce.  One spouse had to prove to a court that the other was guilty of adultery, abuse, or abandonment.  Today, none of that is necessary.  All the speed bumps on the path to divorce have been removed and all that is necessary is for one spouse to want to dissolve the marriage.  Therefore, from a practical standpoint, the law of the land is unilateral divorce on demand.  Our laws have built an expressway to divorce.

Why has this happened?  Because our hearts have gotten harder.  Jesus came to soften our hearts, but we have been resisting Him and resisting His ways.  Thus we have weakened marriage.  You could say we have adulterated it.

It would do no good now to change the divorce laws back without first changing human hearts.  Laws can’t make the heart do what it doesn’t want to do.  We must have a change of will.  We must repent of adulterating the concept of marriage before we can properly repent of our practice of marriage.  I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Ten Commandments: #6 – Yet More on No Murder

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments.  This is my third post on the sixth commandment.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

In the last couple of days, I’ve tried to briefly sketch both the breadth and depth of the sixth commandment.  First, I spoke of the commandment’s breadth by mentioning that murder can express itself in many ways, including abortion, euthanasia, suicide, transgenderism, and divorce.  Then I spoke of the commandment’s depth by describing how Jesus explained His intention to remove the very roots of murder from the hearts of His disciples.  Thus we see there is much more to this commandment than might immediately come to mind when we hear the words “You shall not murder.”

Only by taking God’s commandments seriously enough to obey them will we give them the thought that they deserve.  As we give them that thought, we will come to appreciate more and more the breadth and depth of understanding God is able to impart to those who want more than anything to keep His commandments.  These are those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

Now that you’ve given the sixth commandment more thought, what do you see as its heart, its essence?  One way to put it is that it’s about getting us to value other’s lives as much as our own.  We all value our own lives.  Self-preservation is instinctive.  God would have us be as instinctively protective of others’ lives as well.

As we value our own lives more than we do the lives of animals or trees, so we should value other people’s lives more than we do the lives of animals or trees.  Concern for the environment is fine, as long as it’s not considered as important as people.  Concern for animals is fine, as long as they’re not considered as important as people.  Concern for the rain forest is fine, as long as it’s not considered as important as people.  God created the rain forests, animals, and the environment…for people.  Therefore, such things are to be judged by what they do for all people – not just us.

The King James Version of this commandment reads “Thou shalt not kill,” but most modern translations use “murder” in place of “kill.”  I think either translation is fine, but the use of “murder” makes the point more clearly to the modern mind that not all killing is a sin.  A soldier defending his country or a police officer protecting his community might have to kill in the line of duty.  That would not be murder.  When soldiers ask John the Baptist what they should do to repent, he gave them instructions which did not include resigning from the army or forsaking their sworn duties.  Neither is it murder for a nation to exercise capital punishment in the cases of heinous crimes.   The apostle Paul said that the government was acting as God’s delegate in such a matter.  When evil people threatened the extinction of the righteous, God flooded the earth.  Everyone is going to heaven; life on earth should not be preserved at all possible costs.  Therefore, the presence of the kingdom of God does not mean that governments are no longer needed on earth; people still do evil, and great evil must be constrained.  Nonetheless, the kingdom of God does mean that you should not seek to advance your own interests or the interests of the kingdom of God by violence.  That would be murder.  The people of God are not like Cain, imposing their will on others; they are like Abel, lambs to the slaughter in the moment and more than conquerors in the end.

To summarize:  Life is precious, and everyone knows this.  The Jews have a toast: “L’chaim,” which means “To life!”  Our country’s Declaration of Independence mentions life as the first of inalienable rights granted to all people by their Creator.  The practical daily import of the sixth commandment for you and me is that we should seek the life of our neighbors just as we seek it for ourselves.  It requires a transformation of our natural thinking to do this.  Self-preservation is human; regard for the lives of others is divine.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Ten Commandments: #6 – More on No Murder

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments.  Yesterday we began our discussion of the sixth, and today we conclude it.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

We saw yesterday that the spirit of murder can manifest in many forms; it is bitter fruit that takes many shapes.  We must, however, pay much closer attention to this commandment.  Jesus opened our eyes to its depth by pointing out the place where the spirit of murder first takes root: the human heart.  For in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that just as a man who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart, so a man who is angry with, dismissive of, or bitter about his brother has already committed murder of the brother in his heart.

If all we knew about the Ten Commandments was what we learned from Moses, the commandment not to murder would be of limited use to us.  For most of us could not be tempted to murder a fellow human being, or at least don’t think we would ever murder someone.  From the standpoint of Moses, therefore, the sixth commandment has very little value as a guiding light for our daily lives.  But Jesus took the Ten Commandments well beyond the mere physical, behavioral level; He took them spiritually, He took them to heart.  Jesus seeks to end murder by going after it at the root: anger and hatred in the heart.

Before Cain killed Abel, he became angry with him – and Cain was unwilling to repent of that anger.  Therefore, Cain was “murdering” in his heart before he murdered in the flesh.  This was Jesus’ point.  Moses’ gave the Ten Commandments for governance of behavior, but Jesus applied them to the thought life.  By applying them to the thought life, Jesus was dealing with the roots of sin.

How do you treat other people?  Let me be more specific.  How do you think about other people?  If you can think about people in a godly way, you will have no problem behaving toward them in a godly way.  That is the point of Jesus’ ministry to us:  purifying our hearts that the entirety of our lives might be purified.  On the other hand, if you are bitter and unforgiving in your thought life, any kind thing you do will merely be for pretense.

He who loves his neighbor doesn’t murder him…in thought or in deed.

Loving your neighbor does not mean you have to approve of everything he says or does.  It does not mean that you cannot express your disagreement with him.  It does not mean that the decisions he makes in life will always please you.  What it does mean is that in your every thought of him, you have his best interests at heart.  You regard him as a co-recipient with you of the love of God.  Jesus strongly rebuked the Pharisees out of His love for them.  Jesus’ died on the cross for the Pharisees as much as He died for His disciples or for you and me.  “For God so loved the world…”  If He so loves us, we ought also love one another.

Many people today confuse love with affection; that is, they think love is some kind of feeling.  Love is not a matter of emotion – it is a matter of the will.  It wills the good of the other person.  And so we cannot imagine Jesus feeling great affection for the Pharisees, but we can imagine Him having great love for them.  Any loving parent with a disobedient child knows this distinction.

Moses was merely human – like us.  Therefore, he could not see into human hearts.  His command was minimalist:  “Don’t murder each other.”  Jesus, being more than merely human, being the Son of God, can indeed see into the depths of our hearts.  He can see things in that realm that are not even apparent to us.  Therefore, Jesus’ makes the command maximalist: “Don’t fail to love.”

In the sixth commandment, the Lord has given us the basic rule of human interaction.  If we accept it, we will live like Abel and not like Cain.  Yes, Abel was the victim of Cain’s anger, but Abel pleased God and Cain did not.  There are too many Cains in the world; wouldn’t you rather be an Abel?

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

Ten Commandments: #6 – No Murder

We’re surveying the Ten Commandments, and today we’ve reached the sixth.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

The fifth commandment, having provided a proper orientation for developing all other human relationships, sets the stage for the sixth commandment, which is the foundational duty God requires of us in every human relationship: the duty not to murder another person.  Every human being has a right to life.  In this country, that right is even acknowledged prominently in our Declaration of Independence.  Few rules of human conduct find as much societal agreement as the commandment not to murder.

Even though the commandment “Do not murder” is widely acknowledged in our society as good and right, however, we find it regularly violated without sufficient societal disapproval.  Here are some examples.

Abortion.  Babies are being murdered while in their most vulnerable state in what should have been their most protected environment: their mothers’ wombs.  The Democratic Party prides itself on standing up for oppressed minorities, but since babies in the womb cannot vote, this particular oppressed minority is out of luck.  Instead, the genocide against them is perpetuated under the guise of “women’s reproductive health.”  Yet the baby is proof that the woman is indeed reproductively healthy; she is, after all, now a mother.  Treating the baby as a disease to be eradicated is murderous to the baby and mutilating to the mother.

Euthanasia.  We’re not just snuffing out lives at their beginning, we’re snuffing them out at their end, too.  This is not to say that physical life should be artificially prolonged, but it is to say that the timing of our eventual death – and we will all eventually die – should be a matter of God’s choice and not human choice.

Suicide.  Suicide is a form of homicide.  It’s a form in which the criminal and the victim are the same person.  In that sense, it’s “the perfect crime,” because, by the time the police figure out whodunnit, the perpetrator has gotten away.  In this age of secularism, many people think that human autonomy extends to having the right to decide when to die.  But it was God who gave you to the world; He is the only one who has the right to remove you from it.  Until He says we’re done with life, we’re not done.  Remember, we weren’t put here for our own sake – we were put here for the sake of others.  Suicide is unilaterally deciding to deprive the world of your life.

Transgenderism.  Transgenderism is a form of attempted murder because it seeks to remove Harry from the earth that Harriet might live in his place.  This is even confirmed by the language police who tell us that we cannot speak of Bruce Jenner or Bradley Manning because they are no more; “Caitlyn” and “Chelsea” have taken their places.  Yet there go Bruce and Bradley, and we should be in mourning for the mutilating attacks on their bodies and minds.  That those attacks are being conducted by the two men themselves, and supported by family, friends, and medical professionals in the name of compassion, should make us all the more mournful.

Divorce.  Even divorce is a form of murder because it kills the one life that God made from two.  Sometimes adultery kills the marriage first, in which case divorce is simply the acknowledgement of the marriage’s death, not the execution of it.  In any case, however, the life of a marriage is to respected by all, and the death of one of the two who comprise it is the only legitimate way the marriage can die.

Thus the spirit of murder seeks and finds many outlets in a modern society.  For only in a highly educated society like ours, where we think we’re smarter than the commandments of God, is murder able to successfully cloak itself in so many different forms.

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

More on Understanding the Structure of God’s Commandments

I wrote a post on this subject last week (Understanding the Structure of God’s Commandments).

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our being and the second greatest is to love each other as we love ourselves.  The outline below shows, therefore, how the Ten Commandments fit within those two.  The apostle John saw the common theme and said, “God is love” – thus highlighting the common theme of the commandments.

God’s commandments flow from His nature.  He is love personified.  He commands us to love because He is love, and because His will is that we become like Him.  For this reason, I have emphasized the word “love.”  It is the theme that defines God’s nature and therefore shapes His commandments.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.

Many, many people today will say that they believe in and practice love…but how many define it the way God does above?