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Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
Ruth Graham, the wife of famed evangelist Billy Graham, was once asked if she had ever considered divorcing her husband. With a twinkle in her eye she responded, “Murder him yes, divorce him no.”
We can smile at Mrs. Graham’s comment, but the fact is some of us have perhaps been so filled with hatred for someone we wished they were dead. Have you ever felt that way?
Let me restate the question. Have you ever driven on a freeway in southern California?
In previous articles we’ve been looking at God’s “Top Ten list” of all time, the Ten Commandments. We noticed how the first four commandments have to do with our vertical relationship with God, and the remaining five have to do with our horizontal relationship with other people.
Let’s look at the second of the commandments that deal with our relationships with other people, namely, the sixth commandment that says:
“You must not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)
One thing I want you to see right away about this commandment is that it does not forbid all killing whatsoever (and therefore the older translations that say, “Thou shalt not kill” are incorrect). The Hebrew word translated as “kill” would be better translated as “murder” (ratzach), which means the taking of another human life in a maliciously premeditated manner, or as the result of gross negligence (i.e., manslaughter).
All murder, of course, is killing, but not all killing is necessarily murder. Indeed, there are times when causing the death of another is justified, though not desirable. For example, if someone were to break in your house with the intent of murdering you or your family, Scripture allows you to defend yourself. The same principle applies regarding terrorists who attack your country. It is justifiable self-defense to go after fanatics who premeditatedly murder our citizens, in order to bring them to justice.
In fact, it’s Scriptural to do this:
Yes, you must execute anyone who murders another person, for to kill a person is to kill a living being made in God’s image. (Genesis 9:6)
Here Scripture teaches that the execution of those who commit premeditated murder is justified, since it is implies an outright hatred of God Himself.
Have you ever seen a group of people holding vigil, praying and protesting the death penalty for some notorious killer? They will usually have at least a few signs saying, “Thou shalt not kill.” More often than not, these people who oppose capital punishment are the same folks who support abortion on demand. They want to kill the innocent and spare the guilty; but I want to spare the innocent and judge the guilty!
There are good people on both sides of the issue of capital punishment issue, of course, but consider Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount regarding murder:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (Matt. 5:21)
Many people in the depths of their heart have anger and hatred to such a degree that their true desire is for the hated person to be dead. This heart condition is clearly forbidden in Scripture:
Anyone who hates his Christian brother is really a murderer at heart. (1 John 3:15)
The word used for “hate” here means “to habitually despise” and to practice a deep-rooted loathing. Sometimes we will say, “I just hate him or her. …” God doesn’t want His children to hate like that.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Eph 4:31-32)
That, of course, is easier said than done, but according to an article in Time magazine, it can be good for your health!
In a cover story entitled, “Should all be forgiven?,” it is stated, “giving up that grudge could be good for your health.” Researchers are pioneering a science of forgiveness based on the old form of grace taught in the Bible. As Mitchell Wright instinctively realized, there is not only a religious impetus to forgive, but also therapeutic, social and practical reasons to do so.
In the past two years, scientists and sociologists have begun to extract forgiveness and the act of forgiving from the confines of the confessional, transforming it into the subject of quantifiable research. “The field is just exploding,” says Virginia psychologist Everett Worthington, director of the Templeton Foundation Campaign for Forgiveness Research. A number of psychotherapists are testifying that there is nothing like it for dissipating anger, mending marriages and banishing depression.
An amazing story of forgiveness comes from the concentration camp experience of the Dutch Christian, Corrie Ten Boom. Ten Boom and her family were sent to the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbruck for hiding Jews in their home. Corrie tragically lost her father and sister Betsy in that camp. After years of untold suffering in the camp, though a “clerical error” (that was really an act of providence), Corrie was released from Ravensbrook. Tragically, all the women prisoners in that same camp her age were killed the week following her release.
Corrie spent the rest her life as a self-described “tramp for the Lord,” speaking of God’s of work in her life during this very difficult time. Some years later, after one of her church meetings, Corrie met face to face with one of the very cruel and heartless Nazi guards that she had faced previously at Ravensbruck.
- He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister.
- He had jeered and stared lustfully as they stood in the delousing shower.
- Now he stood before her with hand outstretched and asked, “Will you forgive me?”
“I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me!
Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!”
Is there someone you need to forgive today?
It’s far better than hating and can even be good for your health!
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover the prisoner was you.