A little over a year ago, we had two foster sons came to live with us, they brought this super deluxe gaming system with them. The game they played the most was a game called Fortnite. Kobe also knows this game well. In this game, all shown in vivid detail, you choose a weapon with which to kill your opponent with. It might be a shotgun, it might be a machine gun, or even something more devastating. Multiple players play against each other. You can even plug in to play with other kids around the world, each one trying to kill the other before they, themselves, are killed. When you do get killed there are ways to revive yourself, so death is rarely the end of it. You may rise again to continue your killing rampage. Just innocent fun… right? And we wonder why our kids are becoming angrier and desensitized to violence. Our whole culture has become one that trivializes the death of other people. Movies know that shooting a dog or any other animal onscreen is much more shocking then killing another human being, that’s why you rarely, if ever see it.
We have become desensitized to murder in every form. In Fact, it’s hard to go to a movie anymore where murder isn’t witnessed. Even on our televisions, the death of another human just adds to the adventure. We have become a society that regards movies and television shows that feature murder as entertainment.
Exodus 20:13 is a very small verse packed with a lot of meaning. It reads, “You Shall Not Murder.” This is the fifth commandment in God’s set of ten that He gave His people. So, what does God mean in this commandment? In our small Catechism, Martin Luther wrote that this commandment means that we should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body but help and support him in every physical need.” If this is true, then we have definitely fallen of the cliff. Our promotion of violence against another human being is directly opposite to what God would call us to do.
Today, violence is almost seen as a virtue. We have given up conversation because it takes too long. Instead, we have reverted to the ways of our old Adam and made violence and murder a spectator sport.
We’re hardly the first society to call violence and murder entertainment, just ask the thousands of Christians who gave their life in the Roman Colosseum just because they refused to renounce their faith in Christ, or the gladiators who found themselves on the wrong end of a sword. Ask the crowds who gathered together to watch the hanging and beheadings that some called justice. Each era holds its own guilt for the harm we have done to each other for our own amusement.
God didn’t create us to do harm to each other. He created us to show godly love for one another. So, why have we strayed so far from the kind of people we were created to be?
Psalm 10:8 says, “(The wicked man) sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent.” Yet Christians all over the world promote the wicked man by watching his evil ways.
Ephesians 4:31-32 lays out God’s wishes for us, it says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
The Romans had another form of killing that some called entertainment. This way of torture was the worst of all. They would make you carry a heavy cross to your deathplace after they had whipped and beaten you. Once you arrived to the place of your execution, they would make you lay on that cross and then they would nail your hands and your feet to that cross and they would lift that cross so that all that was holding you up were the nails. Eventually you would either die from pain or from asphyxiation but for many it was a slow death. Meanwhile, the crowds would curse at you and throw things at you. They would laugh at you and spit on you even as you suffered so greatly. Why would they even want to see such a thing?
This is the way our Lord was murdered. I say murdered because He deserved none of the sentence He so lovingly took in our place. I say murdered because it was the Pharisees and Sadducees that sentenced Him knowing full well that He didn’t deserve to die. I say murdered because His trial was not a trial, only an excuse to do what they had all decided long ago had to be done to save them from losing whatever power they possessed over the Jewish people.
And when Jesus was hanging on the cross, they jeered him and blasphemed Him. They laughed yelling, “If He is the son of God, let Him save Himself.” To them it was all entertainment. To them His death was their victory.
But we observe the day Jesus died and we call it Good Friday, not because it was good for the Jewish leaders, but because of the good that came out of that death. Because Jesus was willing to die, all believers have been set free from death. Because He was willing to bring all of sin upon Himself on a cursed tree, our curse of sin has been lifted and we have been afforded everlasting life. With the authority over sin and death that only God has, He turned murder into miracle.
And we carry on with this promise of salvation, resisting our temptations to murder others in our thoughts, words and deeds. As Christians we are to find no gain in someone else’s misery.
Instead of wishing ill on someone, we are called to help that someone. Instead of hoping to gain from another’s misfortune, our hope is that our neighbor find success. Instead of profiting from someone else’s loss, we follow our Lord’s lead and try with all our might to help that someone find their gains.
Every time we wish Ill on someone, we murder them in our own little ways and every time we spread gossip, we work to murder their name. Each time we wish our neighbor was dead it’s the same in God’s eyes as if we had gone through with the task.
Jesus Christ died to show us a better way, a way of peace, love and joy. Does that mean that there won’t be times we feel vengeful and angry? Sadly, no. But each day we have the opportunity to find strength in the one who died so that vengeance and anger need not rule our lives.
Finally, every time we give in to these murderous thoughts as Christians, we murder Jesus all over again in a way. We murder the name we have gained through faith, we murder the reputation of God’s Holy Church and we murder our own ability to do good in Christ’s name.
“Though shall not murder” is about so much more than snuffing out another physical life. Its about going the extra mile to make another’s life more bearable. It’s about making sacrifices in your own life so that another life may benefit. It’s about showing the way to Christ who is our salvation, our lord, our way, our truth and our life.
Refrain from murder, rejoice in your salvation. Celebrate all that Christ has done for you. His murder has set you free. His slaying has given you everlasting life. In His execution and resurrection, all the promises were fulfilled. Amen