Murder in My Mouth –
Sermon 6 of 10 from the The Ten Commandments for Today (Exodus 20) series
July 1992 – They had only been married 11 days when she had him killed. It all started when Louie Weber met Eva Garcia. Louie was 41 and she was 17 and a senior in high school. A romance blossomed and they were married in November 1988. Six days after getting married Eva learned that she had won a scholarship. Evidently fearing that her new marriage would ruin her chances at the scholarship, she complained to her cousin who put her in touch with two men who offered to help her out.
Five days later while Eva and Louie ate at a pizza parlor, she excused herself, met with the two men and gave them $1000. A few minutes later Eva said, “Let’s go for a walk in the park.” As they walked, the two men stepped out of the shadows and shot Louie dead.
This week Eva Garcia pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. When the judge sentenced her to 40 years in prison on Thursday, he commented that “killing someone is not a way of getting out of a marriage.”
The Bloodiest YearBut did you see the big article in Thursday’s Sun-Times? “First 6 Months of 1992 Set a Murderous Pace.” So far we’re on track to make 1992 the bloodiest year in Chicago’s long and fabled history. At the current rate, we may well see over 1000 murders in Chicago before the year is through. Incidentally, the bloodiest year in Chi-cago history was 1974 when there were 970 killings. The second-bloodiest year was 1991 with 927 murders. But through June we are well ahead of both those record years.
I noted this from the article: “Officials blamed the soaring murder rate on gangs, drugs and the easy availability of handguns.”
Yet another article in the Sun-Times noted that there is a new “gun of choice” on the streets. Once the favored weapon was the 38 revolver—the so-called “Saturday night special.” In recent years the 9 millimeter semi-automatic has taken over. It is easier to purchase, the experts say, and has greater killing power because you can get off more shots in a shorter amount of time.
The bottom line: For the first time in history, law enforcement officers say that they are being outgunned on the streets. More deadly weapons are available to more people than ever before.
No wonder this is a record year for killing.
We Still Know How to KillWe still know how to kill! Somehow, despite all our technological advances, for all our vaunted sophistication, we have never mastered the Sixth Commandment—"Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Or if you prefer the newer versions- “You shall not murder.”
For anyone reading the newspaper, it would seem that our technological prowess has simply taught us how to kill quicker, and cleaner, with less fuss. We kill faster now, with deadlier aim, but the end result is the same—our streets are unsafe, our homes are unsafe, our cities are unsafe and our hearts are filled with fear.
Progress? Oh sure. Nowadays kids kill each other over a high school letter jacket. Or they kill because some-one stole their “stars and wires” (rims and wheels). Or they kill because they don’t have money to buy drugs or because they are on drugs or because someone looks at them funny.
Do We Really Need the Sixth Commandment?Our problem is simple: We think this Commandment doesn’t apply to us. “I’ve never killed anyone.” “I’m no murderer.” By that we mean that we’ve never taken a gun and blown someone’s face off or that we haven’t taken a knife and plunged it into someone’s heart. We haven’t literally killed anyone so (we think) this Command-ment doesn’t really apply to us.
“Haven’t killed anyone? Don’t be so sure.”
I. What Jesus Said Matthew 5:21-24The place to begin in looking at the Sixth Commandment is not in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament —in the Sermon on the Mount, to be specific. In Matthew 5 Jesus is speaking to a group of people who felt they had perfectly kept the Ten Commandments. They truly believed that as long as they didn’t physically kill someone there was no way this Commandment could apply to them.
Jesus says, “You’re all murderers. You just don’t know it.” In answer to the Pharisees who watered down this Commandment, Jesus expanded these ancient words by including the motives of the heart. In these verses Jesus goes from the fruit of murder to the root of murder—an evil heart attitude.
If murder is the fruit, then anger is the root!
All of us are murderers when it comes to harboring anger against others! In fact, Jesus shows us three ways to murder without getting a drop of blood on the carpet.
A. Uncontrolled Anger 21-22a“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.”
Do you get the drift here? Anger—uncontrolled and unrestrained—is a kind of murder. It’s interesting that Jesus adds “with his brother.” Isn’t it true that our anger tends to flare up most often against the people we know the best and love the most? It’s hard to get angry and stay angry at people we don’t know. But let a friend or a loved one do something we don’t like, and suddenly we blow our top.
Remember the words of the Apostle John: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (I John 3:15) And the reference in that context is to Cain who hated Abel before he killed him.
It all starts with anger. Murder would be wiped out if our anger was under control.
B. Abusive Speech 22b“Again, anyone who says to his brother ’Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But any-one who says, ’You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
“Raca” is an Aramaic insult that means something like “You worthless son of a motherless goat.” (Not a literal translation!) Or it might mean “You brainless blockhead” or “You idiot” or “You moron.” I think you get the picture. You said “Raca” when you were angry and wanted to insult a person. It was an attack on a person’s self-worth and dignity. The same is true of “You fool!” It’s an attack on a person’s character.
But what about the person who says, “I wish you were dead.” God takes that seriously. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Do you realize that saying “I wish you were dead” is really a prayer to God? You are speaking death into a particular situation.
That’s a way of murdering people!
Some of you are so good at it that you ought to be hired by the Mafia as professional hit-men! You are so fast and so clean about it that you can kill two people on the way to the water fountain and step over their corpses on the way back to your desk.
But you’re a murderer in God’s eyes! You’ve killed with your abusive, unkind speech.
C. Interpersonal Animosity 23-24“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
The principle is easy to grasp: Solving problems now saves trouble later. And delayed reconciliation means increased animosity. Jesus is speaking about the priority of reconciliation. It’s more important than coming to church; it’s more important than giving money; it’s more important than praying in public or going to a Bible study.
Sometimes we can harbor hatred toward others even while attending church on Sunday morning. If that’s true of you, then when we pass the offering plates in a little while, please kindly keep your money to yourself. God doesn’t want money from a murderer!
That’s what you are if you harbor bitterness and resentment in your heart toward someone else.
Don’t Water This DownThe message of Jesus is clear: Don’t water this down. The Sixth Commandment is not just dealing with plung-ing a dagger into the heart. It’s fundamentally dealing with how we treat people. All of us are murderers at heart. You may be a murderer this morning with a smile on your lips.
A murderer in church? How could that be? Because anger fills your heart, because you are prone to abusive speech, because you harbor resentment toward others. Some Christians I know are so cruel in their speech they make Jeffrey Dahmer look like a choirboy!
Let me ask three questions that probe at a very deep level:
1. Do you find it easy to lose your temper when things don’t go your way?
2. Are you carrying a chip on your shoulder?
3. Is your anger keeping you from reconciling with those who have hurt you?
We need a spiritual alarm within that would begin to sound the moment anger takes over. “Ring! Ring! Ring! Danger! Murder Ahead!”
The truth is: There is murder in my mouth today … and in yours!
Given the right circumstances all of us would commit murder. Our hands are not clean because our lips are not clean.
Why bring this up? Because we are guilty of the very thing we said we would never do. We Christians tend to be very quick to excuse ourselves. Please understand that the Lord Jesus is not as quick as we are to let us off the hook. If we take him seriously, then we’ve got to stop making excuses for our hidden anger, our buried resentments and our tongue that is as sharp as a razor.
II. Three Critical IssuesNo discussion of the Sixth Commandment would be complete without at least briefly touching on some of the major social issues raised by this Commandment.
A. What About Capital Punishment?Is it wrong or right? The answer is that the question can’t be decided simply by reading the Sixth Command-ment. In the Old Testament the death penalty was ordered for a wide variety of crimes, such as:
4. Rebellious children
Is capital punishment always wrong? No, because God specifically ordered it in the Old Testament. But doesn’t the Commandment say, “Thou shalt not kill.” Yes, but the Hebrew word means “to murder” not merely “to kill.” In fact, this particular Hebrew word is never used in those passages where capital punishment is ordered by God.
I would add that Romans 13:1-7 seems to indicate a general New Testament agreement with the possibility of capital punishment. My own personal position is that capital punishment is a horrible step to take but it is sometimes necessary in a fallen world.
Am I “for” capital punishment? No, I am “against” capital punishment in that I take no joy in seeing the state put anyone to death. But I do think that some crimes are so horrible that the criminal has forfeited his right to live in society—even behind bars.
In those cases I think capital punishment is appropriate and is not a violation of the Sixth Commandment.
B. What About Suicide?The Bible doesn’t say very much about suicide directly nor do we have very many clear examples of suicide. Saul falling on his sword (possibly, but compare I Samuel 31 and II Samuel 1) might qualify. Judas hanging himself seems to qualify. There are one or two others in the Bible. (William Barclay lists Samson as a suicide but I don’t think his death really qualifies. He also lists Ahithophel, Zimri and Abimelech as clear cases of suicide.)
But is suicide a violation of the Sixth Commandment? Yes, because suicide is self-murder. It is a sin to take your own life because you are sinning against God who gave you the life in the first place.
Thomas Aquinas forbade suicide on three grounds:
1. It is unnatural.
2. It is a crime against those you know.
3. It usurps the place of God who alone gives and takes life.
That has been the general position of the Christian church throughout the centuries.
This insight is crucial because of the growing popularity of people like Dr. Kevorkian (the infamous “Dr. Death” who invented a machine to help old and sick people end their own lives) and the popularity of books like Final Exit, which gives detailed instructions on how to take your own life.
We live in an age when “quality of life” has become much more important than “sanctity of life.” Against such humanistic thinking, the church must once again loudly proclaim that God alone is the giver of life and that no one has the right to take his own life—no matter how desperate the situation may be.
C. Is War Ever Justified?On this question Christian scholars, thinkers and writers are divided. Let me simply say that this question is not settled by a simple appeal to the Sixth Commandment. Many times in the Old Testament God commanded his people to go to war—against the Canaanites and other pagan groups. The instructions were often explicit: take no prisoners, do not spare the women and children.
Some writers have suggested that these “holy wars” of the Old Testament have been superseded by the New Testament ethic of loving your neighbor. Still others have suggested that “loving your neighbor” is precisely the reason why war is sometimes necessary.
My own view is that war may sometimes be the lesser of two evils. Were we wrong to go to war to stop Hitler in World War II? Should England have given into Germany’s threats? Was not the Nazi menace a sufficient—and even necessary—reason to take up arms?
War is terrible, but it is not the most terrible state one can imagine. War is not worse than enforced slavery. Nor is war worse than the Holocaust. If going to war is the only way to stop an Adolph Hitler or a Saddam Hussein, then Christian love says, “Pick up your gun and head for the front.”
This is not to say that all wars are just or that some wars are not clearly fought for selfish reasons. But some wars are clearly just and in those cases, war cannot be said to violate the Sixth Commandment.
III. Abortion and the Sixth Commandment
One moral issue deserves special treatment. The debate over abortion is the central moral issue of our day. It has become the most divisive issue since the debate over slavery 130 years ago.
Twenty years ago the Supreme Court—in a sweeping display of “raw judicial power"—swept aside the abortion laws of all 50 states, creating a legal climate in which abortion on demand was possible at any point during pregnancy. Then in 1980 evangelicals helped elect Ronald Reagan in the hope that he would appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. In the twelve years that have passed since then, five justices have been replaced. Just a few days ago the Supreme Court handed down its most important ruling since Roe v. Wade. To the shock and dismay of many Christians, three of the Reagan-Bush appointees upheld the basic ruling in Roe v. Wade, thus guaranteeing that abortion would remain legal in America.
The numbers themselves are staggering. Since 1973 nearly 30 million babies have been aborted. That’s a rate of one every 20 seconds. More babies have been killed through abortion in the last 20 years than all the Ameri-can casualties in all the wars we have fought—from the Revolutionary War through the Persian Gulf conflict.
During World War II the Nazis killed 6 million Jews.
Since 1973 we have legally killed 30 million pre-born babies in America.
A. The Central Issue
That brings us face to face with the central question: Is abortion murder? Does abortion violate the Sixth Commandment?
Consider first a definition of murder: Murder is the unjustified taking of an innocent human life. That clears up several areas. War is not necessarily a violation of this Commandment. Capital punishment is not a violation of this Commandment. The definition assumes that there is occasional justification for taking human life.
So what does the Sixth Commandment prohibit? It prohibits the capricious killing of another person. To use the legal term, it is killing an innocent person with malice aforethought. Murder in this sense assumes several things:
—That the one being killed is innocent of any wrongdoing.
—That the one doing the killing has no justification for his action
—That the killer meant to kill
The ancient Hebrew law code made provision for various degrees of guilt just as our own law does. It recog-nized accidental death, death during a personal feud, and the presumptuous sin of killing with a high hand—the last coming close to the concept of 1st Degree Murder.
What do we have when we consider the modern practice of abortion? Assuredly, a death takes place. The fact that death occurs within the womb cannot obscure the central fact—Abortion means death for someone.
B. A Few Key Questions
1. What is it that is being aborted? Very simply, a human life is being aborted. The Supreme Court incorrectly called an unborn baby a “potential” human life. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing. An unborn baby is either dead or alive. What we do have in the womb is a human life with potential—potential for growth and development. To call the unborn baby a “fetus” or “conceptus” or “uterine contents” simply evades reality. Let every person be clear on this point. It is a living, developing, unborn human being that is being aborted.
2. What happens to the unborn baby in an abortion? It is killed. The means vary from clinic to clinic depending on the stage of the pregnancy. Either the developing baby is chopped up, sucked up, shredded, poisoned with salt, or occasionally (in a very late abortion) delivered alive and allowed to die from neglect. Whatever means is used, the end result is the same. Abortion kills babies.
3. Why are so many women seeking abortions? Despite all the pro-choice propaganda, relatively few women seek abortions because of rape or incest—far less than 10%. The most fundamental reason is convenience—the mother is unmarried, the father won’t support the baby, another baby would be embarrassing, the mother is a teenager, a baby would ruin her life, the baby might be handicapped, just another mouth to feed, a baby would interfere with the mother’s career, and so on. Abortion, on top of everything else, is an utterly selfish act.
4. How should Christians feel about abortion? If we value all human life as sacred because it is made in God’s image, then we must oppose it with our heart. Recent commentators have likened the abortion debate to the slavery debate of the last century. So it is. Barely 140 years ago, in a large part of this nation (including my home state) blacks were considered less than human (a viewpoint upheld by the Supreme Court in the the notorious Dred Scott decision of 1857). Christians are obliged to oppose abortion precisely because we value all life—born and unborn—as made in God’s image.
C. A Christian Response
What should we do about this monstrous evil engulfing our country?
1. Oppose It Openly
I believe the concept of a “pro-choice Christian” is a contradiction in terms. If being a Christian means any-thing, it means that we will stand up for the hurting, the weak, the helpless and the defenseless. Who fits that category more than the unborn?
2. Vote Our Convictions
What a difference it would make this November if the Christian community would vote for life. I agree with Larry Burkett when he says that the economy is in a mess, but the economy is not the number one issue for God’s people. Far more important for us is that we vote for those candidates who will protect the unborn babies.
Please understand. I’m not telling you how to vote because that’s not my place. You can vote any way you like. This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. This is a “life issue.” As for me, when I go into the voting booth on November 3, I’m going to vote for life—from the top of the ticket down to the very bottom.
3. Refuse to be Silent
Sometimes I get letters from people who say, “Pastor, abortion is a divisive issue. We ought to stress the positive things and not the things that divide us.” My blood boils when I read things like that. That’s exactly what the Christian church in Germany did during World War II. They turned away while the gas ovens worked overtime killing millions of Jews. They said, “We can’t speak out. This will only cause trouble.”
It’s about time God’s people got angry enough to cause some trouble!
Erwin Lutzer offers some pointed words for us to ponder:
Abortion continues only because babies are not strong enough to fight back. Their cries are muffled in the sanitary surroundings of hospitals and abortion clinics. Someone has to fight their battles for them because they are helpless in their struggles … If we do not stand up for a child’s rights, why do we think our own will not be taken away? If the Christian church cannot unite in its opposition to abortion, it is highly unlikely that it can unite about any-thing else. Surely nothing must be more grievous to the heart of God than seeing these little ones forced into an untimely death performed under the guise of freedom. (Exploding the Myths That Could Destroy America, p. 119)
4. Support Your Local Crisis Pregnancy Center
Let me finish this point with a wonderful story. Soon after coming to Calvary, God laid on my heart the vision of starting a Crisis Pregnancy Center right here in Oak Park. For two years nothing happened, then a year ago we hosted a meeting of six or seven pastors who met with Nancy Watson from the Loop Crisis Pregnancy Center to see what it would take to start such a center. When Nancy told us the things we would need, she also said that if we worked hard we could have a center in Oak Park within a year.
I don’t think any of us really believed her.
A few months later a steering committee began meeting to map out strategy for starting a center. They worked so hard that all the preliminary research was done in just a couple of months. Then in March of this year the decision was made: Yes, we could start a center in Oak Park.
I am happy to tell you that the Near West Crisis Pregnancy Center opened its doors in Oak Park in May. Since then Marianne Quadrizius (the new director) has been seeing a steady stream of clients—mostly young girls from OPRF High School.
To me, this is nothing short of a miracle. It is also the most important thing that has happened in Oak Park for the kingdom of God in 1992.
—The Near West CPC deserves your support.
—I am happy to give it my wholehearted endorsement.
There are many ways to fight the battle against abortion. We don’t all have to do the same things. Some of us will picket, some will write letters, some may get arrested with Operation Rescue. Others will choose to work for pro-life candidates. Still others will give to help Focus on the Family support pro-life ministries around the country. Some will join the Hike For Life. Some may become counselors at the Loop or the Near West CPC.
It doesn’t matter what you do. It does matter that you do something. Don’t just sit there quietly. Do something for God! Get into the battle! Speak out! Vote your convictions! Don’t be neutral while the baby-killing continues! Stand up for life!
Can a Murderer Be Saved?
One final question and I’m done. Can a murderer be saved? Can the stain be removed? Can guilty hands ever be washed clean?
Consider three great Bible characters:
—Moses who killed the Egyptian foreman.
—David who had Uriah the Hittite killed.
—Paul who stood by giving approval while Stephen was stoned to death.
All three were murderers in the eyes of God.
All three found forgiveness.
So can you.
Here’s a wonderful verse for murderers to consider. “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)
—Does that include abortion? Yes.
—Does it include murder with a gun? Yes.
—Does it include hatred and bitterness? Yes.
—Does it include the rotten things you’ve said? Yes.
Is there any sin the blood of Jesus cannot forgive? No. “All” means all. Every sin is covered by his blood.
Only one thing is left. Face your sin. Don’t try to cover it up. Admit your guilt before God.
Then run … run to the cross! Run to Jesus! Take hold of the bloody cross of Christ! By faith reach out your dirty hands and cling to the cross of Christ. Cry out, “Jesus, make me clean.”
He will hear your prayer and he will forgive your sin. Can you hear the voice of Jesus echoing from the lonely cross? “Let the murderers come to me. My dying blood will make them clean.”
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