23rd Sunday after Pentecost
October 23, 2016
“You Shall Not Murder”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us is the First Lesson read earlier from Genesis 4.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
The 5th Commandment…You Shall not Murder. Don’t murder, you say? No problem! Finally, a sermon I don’t have to listen. Just gonna put the ol’ brain on cruise control and coast through the next 17 minutes. Not so fast, my friends, because this DOES pertain to YOU!
Consider our narrative from Genesis chapter 4. Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. Abel was a shepherd. Cain was a “worker of the ground” or we’d call him a farmer. Both of them brought an offering to the Lord God in thanksgiving for what He had provided them through their crops and fields. But God disregarded Cain’s offering. How come? Well, Hebrews 11:4 tells us “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” It wasn’t the content of the sacrifice, but the character of the men that mattered. Despite God’s warning to not let his emotions get the best of him (4:6-7), Cain flew off the handle and murdered his brother Abel while they were in the field.
When the Lord asks Cain where Abel is, it’s a rhetorical question. Of course God knows what happened; God was giving Cain the chance to confess and repent. Cain didn’t confess his sin, though. He side-stepped the issue. As a result of his sinful disobedience and unrepentance, Cain is forced away from his family.
Let’s return to the issue of Cain side-stepping the issue at hand (4:9). What a coincidence, for that is the same problem that people have today when it comes to the 5th Commandment: You shall not murder. The 5th Commandment teaches us about God’s gift of life. As a result of the 5th Commandment, we are forbidden to take the life of another person – as Cain did – or take our own life.
But when it comes to the 5th Commandment, just like Cain, people want to side-step the real issue. When it comes to abortion, we confess that the living but unborn are still created persons in the sight of God from the time of conception. Since abortion takes a human life, the Church has traditionally and rightly so stood up against abortion. Others side step the issue. “It’s not a life,” they contend, “it’s a mass of cells and tissue. They’re not living until they’re born. Plus, who are you to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. It is her right to choose…reproductive rights and stuff.” Gee, last time I checked this “choice” of which people speak is just one in a long line of choices made prior to conception. Perhaps if better choices were made before that baby was conceived…but that’s a different sermon for a different day.
Euthanasia or “mercy killing” is another side-step of the issue of God’s gift of life. Euthanasia is the act or practice of killing or causing the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a painless way for reasons of mercy. The 5th Commandment, again, teaches us “You Shall Not Murder.” But today people want to side-step the issue. “Grandma would have wanted it this way. She has no quality of life” And yet we know that the severely handicapped, the helpless, and the aged are still people in the sight of God. He gave them life in the first place and that life is to be ended only by Him. Yes, there are times when we allow the people of God to die, but we are not to take an active hand as a change agent and causing that to happen. Life is a gift from God to be ended by Him alone.
If you’re still awake, you might think “No problem. I have never done what Cain did and I’m against abortion and I didn’t mercy kill grandma so I’ve got the 5th Commandment covered.” Not so fast! What about the intent of this Commandment? God calls us to also help and support our neighbor in every bodily need, to be merciful, and forgiving towards our neighbor. Not murdering our neighbor is more than just not bashing him or her in the head with a rock! We are called to help, support, and care for our neighbor is every need. That is a whole lot harder to do, and that is why everyone in this room can add the 5th Commandment to the list of Commandments they have broken at one point or another, because we know full well there have been times when we could have and should have helped our neighbor, our friend, our family, our church, our children, and those around us but we didn’t for whatever reason and we have harmed them instead.
From the time of the giving of the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20, God told His people “You Shall Not Murder.” And yet we are a people who have harmed our neighbor and failed to help them. Like Cain, we cannot keep our emotions in check. We are a people who yelled “crucify” at our own Savior (Matt. 27:22-23). We are a people who would actually spit on our own God (Luke 18:32). God told His people “You Shall Not Murder” and His people responded by striking Him with our fists (Matt. 26:67) right before they murdered Him by crucifixion, a most wretched murderous execution.
And yet our God is a God who still loves us. He forgives us. And He saves us. For every time we hurt another person with our fists, texts, or our words, Jesus Christ took our place on the cross to bring God’s forgiveness. For every time we have failed to help our neighbor in need, Christ was willing to be nailed to Calvary’s merciless tree. The blood of Abel, the blood of the aborted, and the blood of the euthanized cry out against us, but the blood of Jesus Christ forgives our sins and sets us free. God’s mercy extends to us, sinners who have broken ALL the Commandments, and He forgives and sets us free to live by faith in Him.
Cain asked God if he was his brother’s keeper, and the answer is a resounding “YES!” We are our brother’s keepers. We strive to uphold the 5th Commandment by helping our neighbor; showing love to one another because God in Christ loved us first. We are our brother’s keepers when we help and support our neighbor in every physical need. We are our brother’s keeper when we are merciful, kind and forgiving of our neighbor. We are our brother’s keeper when we help them to know of God’s love and grace and peace and mercy by sharing His Word and living by that very same Word.
I have to admit that I have had 2 fistfights in my life and I guess I would have to say that my lifetime record is 1-0-1. I’m not proud of that and that’s definitely NOT what Paul is talking about in today’s Second Lesson. Paul maintained that he had “fought the good fight” (4:7). As God’s loving and loved people, we are not to fight and quarrel with one another. Instead, we are called to help, to serve, to love, and find our strength in our Lord and God. Fight the good fight. Love your neighbor as yourself. Stand up for what is right. Help and support our neighbor in every bodily need. And yes, maybe today you’re angry at a spouse over something they said or did. Maybe you’re upset with someone at church over an incident. Maybe you’re irritated with your child or parent or co-worker. Maybe you’re furious over a Facebook post or email that made you angry. But never forget, my friends, your forever has been changed by Jesus and that changes how you forever deal with your neighbor in any and every situation.