The Bible reading
Exodus 20 1-22
Thou shalt not kill. How come the brief statements are sometimes the most profound?
Words like _ I have a dream – For God so loved the world and – All blacks - all conjure up images for us.
Thou shalt not kill evokes for us an unlikely to becrossed line in our eyes.
Let me tell you a story.
Mr Jackson everyday looked angrily towards his neighbours.
Fushia and Watt. What kind of names were they? It made him angry. Tattoos, and, she had a nose piercing, and, their dog chased his cat.
Mr Jackson sighed.
Parties sometimes, well barbeques, cars parked on his front lawn, Loud music, laughter, and, once, a bonfire that smoked his washing. Over the years Mr Jackson had come to resent them. They were everything that he didn’t like. When they had children he predicted that they wouldn’t be any good. And he was right!!! Runny noses, hand me down clothes, and, in recent times running barefoot in the rain and playing touch on his road. Mr Jackson searched his memory for adjectives. No hopers, hippys Bolschoveks, losers and wing nuts!!!
He had grown to hate them “Bet they smoke dope!” He said to his wife before she passed away. He took notes on them, made lists, recorded incidents. He checked out their yellow topped rubbish bin at nights and once slipped an unwashed milk carton in the bin in the hope that they’d get caught. They never did and Mr Jackson pouted. Councils not doing it’s work. Of course he never told the folk at church the story – Well not the whole story. He heard a sermon on love thy neighbour, but he was sure it applied to Mrs Murphy on the other side not – not them.
One of the elders suggest that he invite them to church. But what did he know? He laughed at the very idea and said that they were too far gone really.
Last December while Jackson, full of hate, was putting his red topped bin out for collection, square to the curb of course, not like them!!! Last December while putting his red topped bin square to the curb Mr Jackson had a heart attack.
It was a bad one .Light faded. Saw a tunnel. The pain incredible –Suddenly Watt the neighbour was pounding his chest his blond hair waving in the midst of the frenetic activity. "I’m a nurse." a womans voice entered his cloud of despair – "Don’t worry!!" roared Watt , " I’m a paramedic." check his pulse. With a compassion and empathy that Mr Jackson had never heard before Watt was saying into the haze – “Hang in there Mr Jackson hang in there.”
Jackson writhed in pain as his chest was battered by the compressions.
Last sight was the nurse screaming “I’ve got a pulse, I’ve got a pulse!!”
And Jackson leaning over him and in a panicking voice “Do you know Jesus Mr Jackson? Do you know Jesus?” I’m a Baptist – Ambulance screaming with it’s rescuing whine and Jackson sharply confronted by his own thoughts – He’d hated and murdered in his mind a fellow believer.
Killed him with them –He was no worse than than a real criminal.
Thou shalt not- rang in his ears.
Mr Jackson – not this one - the popstar -once sang. The man in the mirror.
We grieve at the thought of what many tyrants have done in the world. The world is never short of villans and killers but it shocks us when we realise that the man in the mirror may have been guiity of many of their traits in terms of our attitudes.
Thou shalt not rings close to Home.
Under the searing microscope of truth our deeper emotions reveal the stuff that Jesus referred to when he said the scriptures say Matthew chapter 5 verse 21 ff 21"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
For me, personally this raises enormous questions.
It seems to be about love and the ability to love even when the subject is apparently unloveable.
This morning I would like to encourage you, and myself, about things we can enculture in our lives to build a culture that grows us towards the character of Jesus and away from the dynamics that lead to us breaking the sixth commandment.
Hate is the precursor of murder.
While I am not suggesting that you dive into a pool of self condemnation or self pity I think it would be helpful to take a healthy look at our attitudes and indeed our own wretchedness.
Remember the woman caught in adultery?
Her accusers were hell bent on trapping Jesus – they dragged this sinful woman through the streets of Jerusalem – not because they really cared so much about her dark secrets but because of their hidden hatred they had for Jesus and it was a hatred that blinded their eyes to their own sin of murder in their hearts.
They wanted to stone the woman to death.
Whilst under Jewish law she deserves to die – Jesus stretches through space and time to the moment when he will personally take her place on that blood stained cross and die for her sin and yours and mine and proclaims the grace that flowed from the cross.
“Let you who is without sin throw the first sin!”
Examining their own hearts.
One by one they all walk away.
The realisation of their own hypocrisy and sin bought them face to face with a reality that we all need to face.
We are all guilty. Paul , with the gift of hindsight later spoke of it in the book of Romans 3. 23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
I have often spoken to people who have committed terrible crimes thieves, robbers , adulterers and a murderer. Recently a convicted Paeodiphile came and embraced me at a public event.
What I have observed i,s that the ones best placed to recover from their hideous sins, are those who have come face to face with their own humanity – they have owned their sins and with the backdrop of Jesus grace have become free both from their sinful state and the sin that stalks them.
Don’t the scriptures say for there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus?
When we realise our own lack. Humbled by truth we are then in a position to become one who loves instead of one who hates others for their faults and commit murder in our heart.
, Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call "dissolute"… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. "Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa." When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeting his son, he found eight hundred Pacoes waiting to be reunited with their father. Was Paco such a popular name? Or is a father's forgiveness the salve for every soul?
There is no doubt that Jesus draws the threads in on murder to convict many of us of the same crime.
Secondly we need to learn unconditional love. Love one another says Jesus as I have loved you – If we can but love one another with unconditional love the possibility of a murderous heart is eliminated.
Jesus died on the cross and he calls his followers to pick up their cross and to follow him.
Recently I came across a true story that happened during the Holocaust of the Second World War.
Solomon Rosenberg, his wife and their 2 sons were arrested, together with Rosenburg's mother and father for the crime of being Jews. They were placed in a Nazi concentration camp.
It was a labour camp, and the rules were simple.
"As long as you can do your work, you are permitted to live. When you become too weak to do your work, then you will be exterminated."
Rosenberg watched as his mother and father were marched off to their deaths. He knew that the next would be his youngest son, David - because David had always been a frail child.
Every evening, Rosenberg came back into the barracks after each day of hard labour and searched for the faces of his family. When he found them they would huddle together, embrace one another and thank God for another day of life.
One day Rosenberg came back and didn’t see those familiar faces.
He finally discovered his oldest son, Joshua, in a corner, huddled, weeping and praying. He said, "Josh, tell me it’s not true."
Joshua turned and said, "It is true, Dad. Today David was not strong enough to do his work. So they came for him."
"But where is your mother?" asked Mr. Rosenberg.
"Oh Dad," he said, "When they came for David, he was afraid and he cried. So Mum said, 'There is nothing to be afraid of, David,' and she took his hand and went with him."
That illustrates a mother’s love-- a love so strong that it chooses to give up life so her child can be comforted.
This is also a picture of the sacrificial love Jesus has for us. To keep us from fearing death, he went before us. He met death head on-- then returned from the grave so we would have hope in the Resurrection. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" ...Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
This is what we remember at communion-- our hope because of Jesus'resurrection from the dead.
SOURCE: MELVIN M. NEWLAND, in "A Mother's Love" on www.sermoncentral.com. Edited by SermonCentral Staff. Citation: I Corinthians 15:55-57.
The third way we can eliminate murderous behaviour from our hearts is to learn to love our enemies.
A woman wrote to "Pulpit Helps" to explain a miraculous lesson her family experienced. During one of their family Bible readings as new Christians, they ran across the verse, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him" (Romans 12:20 RSV). She writes:
Ours sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were especially puzzled. "Why should you feed your enemy?" they wondered. My husband and I wondered too, but the only answer John could think of to give the boys was, "We’re supposed to because God says so." It never occurred to us that we would soon learn why.
Day after day John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. "Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn’t looking. One of these days, when we’re out on the play ground, I’m going to jab him back.
I was ready to go down to the school and jab Bob myself. Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn’t Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I’d better give her an oral jab, too, at the same time!"
I was till fuming over this injustice to John Jr. when his 7 year old brother spoke up: "Maybe he should feed his enemy." The 3 of us were startled.
None of us was sure about this "enemy" business. It didn’t seem that an enemy would be in the 5th grade. An enemy was someone who was way off... well, somewhere.
We all looked at John. Since he was the head of the family , he should come up with the solution. But the only answer he could offer was the same one he had give before: "I guess we should because God said so."
"Well," I asked John Jr., "do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you’re going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes." "Jelly beans," he almost shouted, "Bob just loves jelly beans."
So we bought a bag of jelly beans for him to take to school the next day, and decided that the next time Bob jabbed John Jr., John was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his "enemy’s" desk. We would see whether or not this enemy feeding worked.
The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, "It worked, Mom! It worked." I wanted the details: "What did Bob do? What did he say?"
"He was so surprised he didn’t say anything - he just took the jelly beans. But he didn’t jab me the rest of the day!" In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends - all because of a little bag of Jelly Beans.
Both of our sons subsequently because missionaries on foreign fields. Their way of showing friendship with any "enemies" of the faith was to invite the inhabitants of those countries into their own homes to share food with them around their own tables.
It seems "enemies" are always hungry. Maybe that’s why God said to feed them.
Loving your enemies is not easy they are the ones who harmed us. In the old testament Elijah gets the Arameans into his hands – they have been the enemy of Israel and have been inflicting Israel with raids and murderous intent. Here is what Elijah does..
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.
20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”
22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have capturedwith your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Elijah feeds the Arameans and they stop raiding their territory.
Jesus is murdered by the Jews and the Romans and Jesus looks up to heaven and says forgive them Father for they know not what they do!!!!
Don’t you think the Christ response is what we ought to do – because if we do our hearts will be full of love not hatred.