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We live in a day when violent crime is so commonplace that we have actually become somewhat desensitized to it, even jaded.
Experts have concluded that the average American child, by the age of 16, has watched 200,000 violent acts and 40,000 murders on television.
The sixth of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). But does this mean that all killing is wrong? The Bible is saying that it is certainly wrong to take the life of another with no justifiable reason. Having said that, it is also true that the Bible does not condemn all killing. There are times when killing, though not desirable, is permitted. There are some who would say that all killing is wrong, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Not all killing is justified (most of it isn’t). But there are times when it is.
In the Old Testament book of Numbers, Chapter 35, God makes the distinction between murder and killing. All murder is killing, but not all killing is necessarily murder.
When would killing ever be acceptable before God? If someone were to kick down the door of your house and charge inside with a gun, ready to kill you and your family, should you turn the other cheek? I don’t think so. I believe the Bible allows for self-defense. Exodus 22 says, “If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder. But if it happens in daylight, the one who killed the thief is guilty of murder” (verses 2-3, NLT). There is a place for self-defense.
Scripture also tells us, “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong” (Romans 13:4, NLT). God has given us structure. He has given us law. He has given us absolutes. And law enforcement has been put in place to keep order.
Then there is capital punishment, which I believe the Bible justifies. After the Great Flood, when Noah and his family were building a new society, God set in motion a new law that was to govern this society. God said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6, NKJV). In the case of murder, especially premeditated murder, the Bible allows for capital punishment. But we must go through due process to make sure the accused person is guilty – and guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Whenever someone who was convicted of murder is executed, it is a tragic thing. Yet at the same time, it is the enforcement of justice.
What I find ironic, however, is that many of the people who are the primary opponents of capital punishment are also advocates of abortion. This should strike us as strange. When a man or a woman, in a premeditated way, kills one or more people, opponents of capital punishment say, “Don’t put them to death.” But when there is an innocent baby in the womb who has not yet had the opportunity to set his or her feet on this earth, many of the same people would say that it is OK to kill that child. They want to spare the guilty and kill the innocent. They would say, of course, that it is not really killing; it is just terminating a pregnancy. But I would beg to differ. And the Bible differs with that position as well.
The psalmist David wrote, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. … You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:13, 15-16, NLT).
Speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, NKJV). God sees these so-called embryos or fetuses as human beings, made in His image, while they are still in the womb. Every child is created by God and should be given the opportunity to live.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took the idea of murder a step further when He said, “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!” (Matthew 5:21–22, NLT).
The word “anger” that Jesus used doesn’t just mean losing your temper. We have all done that. Rather, Jesus was talking about a deep-seated loathing, the kind of hatred where, frankly, you would like to see that person dead if possible. You wouldn’t go and take their life, but if somehow they died, you would think, “Well, they deserved it. What they did to me was unforgivable.”
Unforgivable? Hold on. Be careful with that, because we put a lot of stock in the fact that every sin is forgivable – when we have committed them. Yet when someone wrongs us, it is unforgivable. Yes, we have all been wronged. Some have been horribly wronged. Some have had wicked, horrible, appalling things done to them. I understand that. But God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19, NKJV). It is not for us to spend the rest of our lives hating that person. We should leave that in the hands of God.
We have all broken the laws of God, intentionally and unintentionally. God wants us to come clean and admit it, to stop making excuses. God’s laws are there to convict us, not condemn us. There is a difference. Condemnation means there is no hope. Conviction, however, helps us understand the severity of our sin. It brings us to the cross of Jesus, where his blood was shed for us and where we can be forgiven.