Murder Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Murder

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Murder refers to the intentional and premeditated taking of a human life by someone who has not been divinely authorized to do so. In Biblical ethics, God's prohibition against murder in the sixth commandment reflects God's character as the author and sustainer of life and represents God's broader desire to protect and preserve life. This prohibition has both a negative and a positive force. Negatively, God forbids all thoughts, words, and actions that demean and diminish life. Positively, God requires that his people show love even to their enemies and do all that they can to promote their neighbor's well-being.

In Scripture

One must read only a few pages into the biblical story before finding an example of murder. It happens in Genesis 4, just after Adam and Eve are evicted from the Garden of Eden. Cain, tired of being outdone by his little brother, takes young Abel out to a field and kills him. It is a horrible story — exactly the kind of thing we might expect to appear as clickbait in our newsfeeds. But beyond that, this ancient episode may feel far removed from the realities in which we live. After all, how many of us have shared in Cain's sin? How many of us have actually committed murder?

If we take Jesus's words in Matthew 5:21 - 22 seriously, there is only one possible answer to that question: all of us. The way Jesus tells it, God places such a high value on human life that Cain did not need to commit the gruesome deed to be declared guilty of murder. The simple desire to do so was enough. Therefore, Cain violated the sixth commandment long before he raised the shovel over his brother's head and spilled his blood in the dirt. He violated it the moment he opened the door of his heart to envy, anger, and vindictiveness and let them make their home in him. Scripture repeatedly tells us that these things have no place in the lives of God's people (teachings that are summarized powerfully in Lord's Day 40 of the Heidelberg Catechism). Instead, they are to be put to death — crucified with Christ — so that compassion, kindness, gentleness, and peace can grow in their place (see Col. 3:5 - 14).

Points to Ponder

Hanging on to our anger can feel so right. But in Matthew 5, Jesus insists that it's all wrong. Frederick Buechner reminds us of the wisdom of Jesus's words when he writes: "Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you."

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.