This is the sixth part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: The Ten Commandments. How precious is the value of one life? What authority determines the value of that life? Our value about life should be rooted deeply in what God’s word says about human life. What God says about human life is important. God says, “You shall not murder”.
[Darris McNeely] Kaname Harada is, or perhaps was, I don’t know if the gentleman is still alive. The article that I read about him, he was 98 years old and this article came out within the last two years. If he’s still alive, he’s at or near 100 years of age. Kaname Harada was a Japanese fighter pilot for the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. He flew a Japanese “Zero” on the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. During the course of his years in the Japanese Air Force, during the war, he shot down 19 Allied aircraft. He was a “samurai of the sky” as they called him, one of their ace fighter pilots. When the article that I read about Mr. Harada was written he was, as I said, 98 years old. And the former ace, as it said, was on his final mission.
His final mission was to use his wartime experiences to warn Japan against ever going to war again. Now many of you will know in the aftermath of World War II, in the Reconstruction of Japan, the Constitution that was framed and given to them by the occupying American forces committed Japan to a pacifist course. Now there have been moves to alter that in recent years, but they have more or less been on that course ever since. Which was quite a change from what obviously happened during and before the years of the Second World War. But as Mr. Harada was seeing in recent years, his generation was dying off, those who had fought in World War II and learned its lessons were not as prevalent. And a new generation who had not been exposed to war was coming on and becoming much more militaristic. And he saw it as his duty to begin making speeches and appearances wherever he could to teach his people, the Japanese, about the horrors of war. And so he did, and is, if he is still alive.
The article had quoted him saying, “Nothing is as terrifying as war.” Nothing is as terrifying as war. And his talks would go up to 90 minutes in length, as he would talk about the roles of Japanese in battle and his experiences that he had to remind people of the horrors of war. He would recount how in dogfights, he flew close enough to his opponents to see the terror on their faces as he sent them crashing to their deaths. And that had an indelible impact upon his life. “I fought the war from the cockpit of a ‘Zero’,” the Japanese fighter plane, “and can still remember the faces of those I killed. They were fathers and sons too. I didn’t hate them or even know them. That is how war robs you of your humanity,” he added, “by putting you in a situation where you must either kill perfect strangers or be killed by them. War,” he said, “robs you of your humanity.” “I realize,” he said, “the war had turned me into a killer of men, and that was not the kind of person I wanted to be.” And so if he’s still doing it, Mr. Harada is warning the current generation of Japanese against the horrors of war, what war does to the individual, as only one who has been there can do. It was an interesting story.
I shared this story recently with the Ambassador Bible College class as we were going through the fundamental belief on military service in war that we hold in the United Church of God. That teaching and certainly this whole experience is embedded in this teaching that we draw from the Sixth Commandment, which it says in Exodus 20. Let’s go ahead and turn and read that, very simply put, verse 13, “You shall not murder.” You shall not murder. Murder of a premeditated, intentional, anger- or hate-filled approach is what God is talking about here. You shall not murder. This Sixth Commandment is a profound commandment for all of us to think about. And to recognize what is embedded here, in terms of the view that we have about our fellow man and what the Bible teaches us about such matters as anger, wrath, hatred, violence and all.
This is a profound teaching, as are of course all the commandments we’ve been going through. The depth that they have, the breadth that they have would alter each one, were they to be perfectly followed by any society, would radically change a people. If we would begin to obey this commandment and implement it across the board in all of its ramifications, think of how things would change—where so much envy, so much lust, so much anger, so much greed, and the derivatives, the social problems, the culture issues that we face would begin to disappear. And of course you factor in all the other nine commandments, and you are on your way to the Kingdom of God and a utopia that man has not seen, but we pray for as we did in the opening prayer.
This commandment is profound. If we turn back to Matthew chapter 24, we see the impact of the breaking of this commandment on our world as Christ spoke of a prophecy here, what we call the Olivet prophecy, Matthew 24:6 Matthew 24:6And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
American King James Version×. Where, when He was asked what would be the signs of the end of the age and of His coming by His disciples, Jesus said in verse 6, He said one of them would be you would “hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you’re not troubled for these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Now war has been a fact of life from the very beginning of human existence, of recorded history, and of Bible history.
We have had that. But He lists this here as an increase in violence and in war leading up to the end of the age and His coming. In verse 21, He says, “For then there will be great tribulation,” and other Scriptures outline more details about what that is, but there will be a period, or a tribulation, “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time no nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.” Global war, global conflict to the point where flesh could be exterminated, made extinct. “But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened,” He said. The elect, His people, His church. Those days will be shortened.
What kind of people make up the elect? People who are going the way of war, violence, hatred, anger? Or people who are going away from that? For those peoples’ sake, those who will be following a way of peace, human flesh will be saved. Think about that and hold that thought as we talk about this commandment tonight and what it means for the world, and certainly as it is implemented in our own life. The breaking of the Sixth Commandment, as we see by these verses in Matthew 24, will lead directly to Jesus Christ’s second coming as He intervenes to stop a war and a time of tribulation that could eliminate all human life from the earth. That’s a profound thought because the violation of this commandment leads the world to that point. Consider that and think about it.
Now let’s go back and let’s talk about the intent and what we are told in this commandment, “thou shalt not murder.” Scripture tells us that God is the source of life. Life is very precious, sacred commodity. God gives life, it is God-given, God has the right to give it and God has the right to take life. In Deuteronomy chapter 32, you find this laid out here. Deuteronomy 32:39 Deuteronomy 32:39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
American King James Version×, “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no god besides Me,” God says. “I kill, and I make alive.” We read plenty of examples in Scripture where God killed. 180,000 Assyrians in one [inaudible]. His people in Jerusalem and Judah. Sodom and Gomorrah, “I kill and I make alive.” God gives life, God takes life. “I wound and I heal, nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” In all of Scripture we only read of one being who has that total authority and control to give and to take life, and that is God. And God is righteous and His judgment is perfect, and only He has it, and He can do that.
He does not give that to mankind. Man has no right to interfere with that by design, by intent with premeditated, calculated murder. In Job chapter 1, this was reiterated to Job in the midst of his trial. Job 1:21 Job 1:21And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
American King James Version×, as he had come to the point where a severe trial put upon him with the loss of his family that we read about, his property. And he came to this conclusion as he confronted what had happened, shaved his head, he fell to the ground and he worshipped, it says in verses 20-21. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” And then he concludes it, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What else could he say? What other words could he have said that would have summed up his perception of what was taking place there. God’s the source of life, and He alone has the ability to give it and to take it.
When we look at this command, we see within it God’s original intent for human relations and how that is to… how we are to look upon one another. And as we look at the teaching, we look at the example of the Bible, we look at the story of history, we know obviously how it has gone. It has gone every way but right when it comes to human relationships. You know, if you go back to the story in Genesis, when Adam and Eve made the decision to take of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. What was the first major fruit of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil when you turn the page from that story after their expulsion from the garden?
What’s the first fruit of that? They had two children, two sons, Cain and Abel. And they came to a dispute one day, and Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel because he was filled with envy or jealousy, and anger and wrath, and he killed his brother. Murder entered the human race, the human family, with that incident. The first fruit, the first tangible result, of rejecting the tree of life and taking of the knowledge of both good and evil is murder and that incident right there. And that begins a sad litany of human relationships, but it is not what God intended.
There’s a principle that God enumerates in Matthew 19 that we should note at this point. Matthew the 19th chapter, as Christ was being questioned about the matter of divorce among His people. And Pharisees came to Him testing Him in verse 3, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?” And He goes back and He reads to them about how “in the beginning they were made male and female. And for that reason a man was to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two would become one flesh. And they were to be no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together let not man separate.” That was His teaching.
And He went back to that period prior to the decision to take of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And then they said, “Well why did Moses then allow for divorce, to give a certificate of divorce, to put her away?” And He said, “Moses did allow it, because of the hardness of your hearts.” You want to note that phrase right there, “the hardness of the heart.” A stony heart would be another way to put it, but He says, “hardness of your heart.” He said that was done, it was legislated because of you. “He permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Verse 8 gives us a principle to understand about original intent. Original intent, maybe we should put that on the board right now.
What’s the original intent? Oh that’s orange, that won’t work. Let’s try another color here. Oh that’s yellow, that really won’t work. Let’s try black, see if it works. That works. Original intent. In other words, what did God mean at the beginning? You know, we recently lost a Supreme Court justice, Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice. As you were reading or hearing about him, his way of looking at the Constitution of the United States was and he was what is called an “originalist.” In other words, as he interpreted the cases that came before him that were constitutional cases, he always went back, “What was the intent of the framers of the document?” And that’s how he made determinations and judgments today, which put him at odds with many others of his fellow peers on the court and for those that are of more of a conservative approach, his loss is painfully felt. But he would go back, “What was the original intent?” And there he would begin to make his judgment.
When it comes to these matters of the law of God, we don’t go back to the American Constitution. We don’t go back to the British Constitution, or any other human document of governance. We go back to the Bible. And as Christ teaches us here in chapter 19 of Matthew, when it comes to original intent, He says from the beginning it was not so. And that applies not only to divorce, but that also applies to any other point of God’s law and particularly to this law, thou shalt not murder. What was the original intent that God had for His creation, for human beings? That’s what we want to always go back to and understand, and that’s what we want to live by. So keep that in mind as we go through this topic here tonight and we look at its implications for us and what it teaches.
God’s original intent was that man would live in peace, not only between a husband and wife, but brother to brother. But the absence of animosity and the absence of the type of hate that welled up within Cain to cause him to kill his brother, to murder his brother there. Where did it all get off track? Where does that spirit come from? Well the Bible gives us that knowledge, too. In Ezekiel 28, well-known passage as it talks about the spirit of Satan and how this comes into the creation, chapter 28. As he is talking, taking up this lamentation against the king of Tyre, which is here a human type of Lucifer. In verse 16, it says, “By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore, I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones.”
You were filled with violence and you sinned. That’s where it began—in the mind of this created spirit being, this covering cherub named Lucifer, whom Christ would later say was the first murderer. That’s where it began. In Revelation chapter 12 we read again of the workings of this malevolent mind. Revelation 12:7 Revelation 12:7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
American King James Version×, “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought.” War broke out in heaven at some point in the past. Pre-Biblical time, pre-Genesis time. And He goes on to talk about what happened here. There was a war that broke out in heaven because of the evil intent, the violence that was within. And that spirit has been translated to mankind.
When we go back to Ephesians 2, we see how that is done. Ephesians 2 is a very key passage that the apostle Paul gives us, in regard to a spirit of hate and anger that humanity contends with. Ephesians 2, “You He made alive,” verse 1, “who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” This passage gives us an insight into the power by which the prince of this world, Satan, injects his spirit of violence and war that we just read about in Revelation and Ezekiel, into the human mind, into the relations among people. He said, “we walked in this among whom also we are all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath just as the others.”
And he goes on to say that we’re called to be apart from that and to turn around from that. But Paul lists and describes exactly where this comes from and how we once walked, or perhaps to some degree may still walk, if we have not overcome Satan’s influence and this world and our own nature. And if I might even add, folks, even our own culture that we bring with us from family, ethnicity or regions, which impacts how we look at this commandment.
I come from a southern culture. My grand-pappy on my mother’s side fought in the Civil War on the losing side. I know the southern culture firsthand. The Scots-Irish culture of America, I get it honestly from both sides of the family. McNeely on one side, MacVey on the other side. So I know the culture. And those are the things that are who we are, a sense of tradition, but when we’re called to the Kingdom of God… when we are called by God, we begin to take on a different nature. And this is what Paul is saying here, we have to move away from the culture that is epitomized and driven by the prince of the power of the air.
James 4, beginning in verse 1. He asks the question, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” Rhetorical question, but a pointed question. “You lust and you don’t have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’? But He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
The spirit that seeks to submit to God in every aspect of life and every part of life, even to the part that we don’t want to give up. Even the part that we say that we’re going to hold on to, folks, and will have to be pried out of our cold, dead hands. Whatever part of our nature, our pride, this world, this life that we want to hold on to and would have to be pried out of our cold dead hands, to borrow somebody else’s phrase. That’s the opposite of what God talks about. That’s the opposite of the humility, the humble spirit and mind that God gives grace to.
So tracing these verses through from Exodus 20 gives us a pretty good basis to understand where this spirit comes from—spirit of violence, spirit that leads to wrath and to murder—it comes from Satan. And it’s broadcast by his devices, and we were once freely tuned into it, but through the process of conversion and God’s Spirit drawing us to Him, we begin to turn away from it. We turn in the direction of the beacon of God’s Spirit, which is a completely different Spirit and way of life. In Matthew 5, Jesus gets really to the heart of it here as He amplifies this command.
In the Sermon on the Mount, which some have called the Constitution of the Kingdom of God. What is called the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, 6 and 7, these very basic, simple and yet profound and hard-hitting teachings that Christ gives about the Kingdom have been called the Constitution of the Kingdom of God. Those who are going to be a part of that Kingdom and live by that Kingdom and desire to… will to live in that Kingdom when it is brought to this earth will be living by this now, by these tenets, if you will. What Jesus gives us here is an expansion on the original intent. What does He say about the Sixth Commandment?
Let’s look at verse 21. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’” And there were laws to judge that in the Old Covenant. And I will say at this point, let me inject the idea of unintentional killing, what we would today call manslaughter, that even God legislated for. There were cities of refuge in Israel, where if there was an accidental killing, a person could flee to that city and there he was guaranteed asylum until the high priest would die. The relatives of the dead man seeking vengeance could not go there and exact it in a case of manslaughter. Now if it was murder, determined as such, then it was dealt with. There were laws to deal with that. And God did give Israel the ability to deal out the death penalty in a reasonable process of examination and judgment based upon God’s teaching and law. And He gave that to the nation of Israel, we can say, based on what we know in from Romans that Paul understood that God even allows that for the nations today. The authority that human government has to, should they choose, enact the death penalty is given by God.
And should be exacted according to due process. We have that debate in the United States obviously of the death penalty and several states still have it, others have outlawed it. And it still is a debate that rears its head from time to time in our society. But the accidental death, manslaughter, where killing takes place falls under a different intent where there’s not the anger, the jealousy that wells up within the heart that leads a person to ultimately then murder. That’s a different situation. I think we understand that.
He goes on here, Christ then expands this, He says in verse 22, “I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” A greater judgment. Without cause, anger, a spiritual inner presence or thought here. He says, “Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ (which is another way of saying, “You fool!”) shall be in danger of the council.” A condemning, angry, hateful, judgmental, tirade approach judgment that we might make towards someone. Then he says we are in danger. “But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.”
So seek an agreement, seek an out-of-court settlement. Seek to avoid letting anything get to that point. Seek peace, pursue it. Blessed are the peacemakers, He said earlier. “Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” In other words, avoid the confrontational argumentative approach that wants to exact every last ounce of judgment or worth or something from the adversary, and adopting that approach.
He covers a lot of ground here, but He basically shows that this murder begins with anger and don’t let it get to the point where you utter condemnatory language and actions against another person. Because that is a violation of the spiritual intent of the law. He expands the original intent here that He had from the beginning. He shows the spirit of the law that is here. This, as I said, is the teaching that we receive as we prepare our lives and our minds for the Kingdom of God. It is the teaching that is spelled out for, really, a New Covenant Christian. This is what we’re talking about. And of course, He touches on morality and stealing and many other points of the law here.
In Hebrews 8, the apostle Paul brings in a concept from the book of Jeremiah about how it is and what we live under today as a Christian in a different relationship with God than that of the old. And Jesus was laying out the blueprint for that in His sermon. That we have a different, more expanded intent of the law and as a Christian, a disciple of Christ, one who’s going to follow the teachings of the Prince of Peace. In Hebrews 8:10 Hebrews 8:10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
American King James Version×, He says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
This is the essence of the New Covenant. Whereby faith we repent, we seek to have our sins forgiven through the blood of Christ. We are baptized and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and become a new person. A new creature, a new man begins to be built within us. This is the essence of the New Covenant. God says, “I will put My laws in their mind,” not on a tablet of stone. “And in their hearts they will be written… I’ll be their God; they will be My people.” This is a New Covenant Christian. What was it Jesus said in Mark 7:21 Mark 7:21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
American King James Version×? That it’s out of the heart come many vices, and one of them was murder. Mark 7:21 Mark 7:21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
American King James Version×, I won’t turn there. But He said out of the heart comes murder. Obviously from our heart there should be coming something different.
What did Jesus say in Matthew 19? Because of the hardness of your heart, we had to legislate it. Because of the hardness of Israel’s heart, when they came out of Egypt, they would not trust God. Or His angel that He said He would send before them, or God to fight their battles, even though He had shown that He was well capable of doing it, by killing the firstborn of Egypt, by dividing the Red Sea, killing the armies of Egypt within that sea and delivering them. And yet, very shortly, before they ever got to Mount Sinai, they had to organize an army to fight. You read about in chapter 17 of Exodus. And yet God, even after that, said I’ll take care of you, I’ll send My angel before you and he’ll fight for you. But it didn’t get in there along with a lot of other things because of the hardness of their heart. And here at Hebrews 8:10 Hebrews 8:10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
American King James Version×, God says, “I will write my laws upon the heart.”
Let me ask you a question. How much of the law of God has been written in your heart? And I ask myself the same question. What part of our heart might be too hard for anything to be written? Is there any part of your heart that would be too hard? Have you ever tried riding on a very, very hard surface? I mean I could walk over here and try to write on this piece of wood, pretty hard, it’s not meant to absorb the writing. Or a stone to write something on there, oh you could take some ink and an ink marker and put it on there. But in time it would be washed off. It wouldn’t be really engraved there. It’s too hard; it’s not porous enough. God here is talking about a heart where the laws can be written upon it. And sometimes we have a part of our heart that just hasn’t been softened enough for that to be written there. And we have to let… sometimes it’s circumstances and the trials of life that will eventually bring that about.
Romans chapter 12 begins to get a little more to the point. Verse 19, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves.” Whoa. Is this a part of our heart that might be still kind of hard? We like to take vengeance ourselves? “Don’t avenge yourselves. But rather give place to wrath.” You know, remove that wrath. “For it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” But how many of us want to take vengeance? How many of us want to see them get what’s coming to them? And we want to be the one to do it. “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Wow. It’s kind of hard to live up to.
If he’s thirsty give him a drink, if he’s hungry give him something to eat. But we might want to give words back in kind. We might want to just wish in our mind, “I hope I’m around to see you get what you deserve.” We choose not to do it ourselves, we may yet hope that someone else will. This is pretty hard teaching and there are plenty of opportunities for each of us to consider this and the anger, the wrath that might be within us that would keep us from treating even those that have hurt us in this fashion. But we have to remember that when we are at that point where we have that wrath, we are at some point on the continuum—we may not be exactly where Cain was when he lifted that rock, or stone, or tree limb, or whatever it was that he hit his brother with and killed him but we may be several degrees back from it—but if it were to take its full course, we’d be just like Cain. We’d be just like him.
In 1 John 3:14 1 John 3:14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He that loves not his brother stays in death.
American King James Version×, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” We passed from death to life through our calling, forgiveness of our sins and the penalty that hung over us… that death penalty… we passed from that death into a new life, because we love the brethren. “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” Now this even gets right down… What we just read in Romans, if you are an enemy, let’s pray to God that we don’t have any enemies that are our brothers. But now this is very explicit, “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” We have to love one another. We may not always like one another, but we do have to love one another.
We may not run in the same circle of friends, but we have to love one another. And don’t ever let your feelings about any brother in the Lord get to the point where you cannot say or you say, “I don’t love them.” You don’t want to be in that situation. We are going to have our personality challenges, but we must love one another as He says here. Verse 15, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” The writers of the New Testament didn’t forget that commandment, nor should we. So again I ask, what part of our heart has not… some part of the law can’t be written in our heart?
These Scriptures that we just read, here in 1 John, back in Romans 12, Matthew 5, we can’t rationalize those away. We can’t just not read them and focus on other parts of the Bible and ignore these. We can’t do that. This is pretty plain teaching and it can be a bit uncomfortable at times to even read it if we haven’t read it for a while or thought about it, or if we’ve gone through a particularly challenging time. We just can’t rationalize it away. We will either live by these teachings or we won’t. So what part of our heart, again I ask, is too hard for anything to be written on?
Beware of the hardness of our hearts as we consider this commandment and its far-reaching implications for the work of God, the plan of God, and for our own lives. I referenced that this commandment is at the heart of our teaching in the Church, a long-standing teaching going back decades, many decades in the Church of God, whereby we do not engage in military service and warfare. We have a fundamental belief in the United Church of God that goes through that. I just went through it this week with the class here at Ambassador Bible College.
It’s always an interesting one to go through because of the discussion that we’ll get in there. And I always am very frank with the students that this particular teaching is one that not everybody in the Church agrees with, either when it comes to the military service or other aspects, implications of that. When it comes to guns, when it comes to how we look at life and handle ourselves in the Church, there are differences of opinion. Sometimes they will come out in our discussions and certainly I’ve been a part of other discussions within the Church that indicate that, among our membership people have differing ideas, and I recognize that. But when we look at these Scriptures, as I said, we can’t rationalize these Scriptures away. And we have to come face-to-face with them and we have to examine this.
I know I mentioned the American Constitution, there is something called the Second Amendment, which guarantees us in the United States the right to bear arms. And that particular amendment has been a point of discussion in American culture in recent years. Every time there’s a mass shooting in America, somebody walks into a school or workplace and kills several innocent people, the calls for gun control, gun control, gun control come out, and that debate gets worked up again, again. And with the current president and his administration there’s been the fear, the thought that there would be enacted legislation or executive orders to take everybody’s guns away.
And the stock price of armament manufacturers, handgun makers, in America has gone up in recent years as everyone has rushed out to buy them, thinking that there may be a day when they can’t in America. And so this is a part of our culture, part of the debate that we have and it rages around us. So I’m well aware of that and I’m well aware of what the Second Amendment says. That gives me the right to have the rifles that I do in my basement and use them as I choose in a sporting way, hunting, which I haven’t done for several years. I have my guns in one spot and the bullets are in another spot, and to be honest I couldn’t find them tonight if I wanted to.
If I decide to go deer hunting somewhere in my back woods off my back porch or someplace else around here, it will take me an hour or so to find them and get the gun ready. I don’t own a handgun; it’s never been a choice that I’ve had. Well, I’ve had the choice. I’ve chosen not to have one. And as I said the ammunition to my rifles are in different parts of the house, but I appreciate what the Second Amendment does give to me as an American citizen, but I’ve never had the desire to load it up and go out and take vengeance on anybody. And I doubt that any of you have had as well. But we maybe have entertained other thoughts about that.
There’s no question that we live in a violent culture and other countries, like in Europe especially, they look at us and they wonder about our gun culture and this and that, and they make statements about it and call us barbaric. I don’t pay much attention to that. I’ve read the history of Europe and there’s been a lot of barbarism in Europe through the generations and centuries as well. So I don’t pay much attention to that and I don’t pay much attention to our own culture and the issues and the debates that go back and forth. I know what I believe. I know the decisions that I made when I was 18 years of age, when I had to register for the draft as it was in the United States. I know what my conscientious objection was to military service then at that time and what it is today. And I’ve made my decisions; you’ve made your decisions.
We live in a violent culture. Violence extends from… and in so many ways and areas of our lives that we don’t even pay much attention to. And where we would not go to war and bear arms against another country and military service, we might choose another route that misses the mark of the teaching that I just read to you here tonight about thou shalt not murder, for whatever reason. We have such a violent media culture that every one of us have been guilty of allowing that violent media culture to come into our own lives by what we view vicariously of murder and mayhem, death. And we have to all make our decisions, whether it’s a movie, a video game. You have to make that decision; I have to make that decision. I made certain decisions with my children. You make your decisions with your children, as to what we teach them.
Where do you draw the line? What do you teach your children? What do you allow into your mind? What’s in your mind? Never mind your wallet. What’s in your mind? What do you allow in? Where do you draw the line? Increasingly we’re in a violent world and it permeates every part of it. And at times, frankly, we do need to dial it down or turn it off. And move away from it and examine our values and what our children are exposed to and what we allow.
And frankly begin to make our judgments based upon what God’s Word says and to live by that faith, and that’s what you and I have to come to. Because this one commandment has far-reaching implications into our life and, certainly, as I showed you at the beginning, for the course of this world because it is war that will bring the world to the point of annihilation, causing Christ to have to stand in and spare human flesh for the sake of the elect. The elect, those who have chosen to live by the teachings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Who have chosen to live a life of peace. Not a life of a lack of wisdom and an approach that puts us into harm’s way, and there is a time and a place to use reasonable force to defend ourselves. Note that I said “reasonable force.” There’s a common sense approach to this, as well, and still living within the spirit of the law. But if we choose to put ourselves into a situation where we could be in violation of this, then we only have God answer to.
And this is a very, very real matter for everyone in the Church to understand, and to have to deal with. I’m well aware of the feelings and the personal practices of any number of people. I will tell you that when I was a pastor and I knew that a member brought a handgun into the congregation, I dealt with it. They didn’t come back if they had a handgun on their person. The church is not a place for a handgun. I told one individual, “You’re welcome, but you’re not welcome with that gun.” And when I found out that others sitting in my congregation while I was speaking had handguns there, I made sure that it was not there the next week. Those are the decisions that I made.
So these are very real matters that we wrestle with it at times and have to make these decisions about in this increasingly violent world. The teachings of the Kingdom of God condemn anger, hate, violence and murder, all of these matters that we have attested to. And as we look at this commandment, it can be a very hard one for us to come to grips with in our own life. And I realize that tonight I’m stepping on some toes but that’s just fine, that’s just fine. I just read the Word of God to you. And if God’s Word steps on all of our toes, mine included, then so be it.
Let me read one more Scripture in conclusion for us to think about. Isaiah chapter 2, we read the part of the constitution of the Kingdom of God in Matthew 5 and I’ll remind you of what Jesus said: “in the beginning it was not so.” His original intent was a society free of the anger and the hate that led to murder. And His people, His elect, are going to be those who spare or have the world spared for their sake by God’s intervention to spare life. While the world moves toward violence, increasingly violence, and more, more, more to the point of near annihilation, the people of God, the elect, are moving more and more inexorably toward the Kingdom of God.
And so let’s read Isaiah chapter 2, and what we well know in verse 4 with that in mind. As this verse describes that world to come, that Kingdom to come and that time and let’s ask ourselves if this is what we are doing today. Because it says that, “He will judge between the nations, and rebuke many people;” God’s Word rebukes. I just, as I said, I just read it to you. Let that rebuke all of us. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares,” insert any modern weapon that you want, and ask, is it used for peace, or for war, or for murder? “And their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
That is the world to which we are headed, that is the world to which we are pledged, that is the world to which you and I are committed. This is the world in which our citizenship now reigns. Are we headed in that direction? If we are, then the command that thou shalt not murder is something we take very seriously.
Good night everyone. Be safe going home. We’ll have our next Bible study in two weeks, I believe. And Mr. Myers will be conducting commandment number seven. Good night.