Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, you have given your only Son for the life of the world, and yet so often we complain when we have to wait a few extra minutes for dinner or become angry when our spouse or children do not conform to our expectations. You disrupted your eternal glory and honor and majesty by giving us life in Jesus Christ who was even murdered for our sins. Give us grace to hear your Word now, continue that great work which you have begun in us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
As we approach the celebration of the birth of the Life of the World, it is completely fitting to consider the Sixth Commandment which sets forth our duty to preserve and defend life according to the law of God.
That He May Live
Moses, in his exposition of the sixth commandment, calls Israel to erect cities of refuge for the protection of those who commit manslaughter (19:2). Manslaughter is defined by God as killing that takes place which was not occasioned by “hating the victim in time past” (19:4, 6). Thus the prohibition against murder means protecting the lives of those who may be in danger of being murdered (19:2-5). They are to build roads giving easy access to these cities of refuge (19:3), and as the land expands they are to add more cities as necessary (19:8-9). This command is also intended to protect the “avenger of blood” from committing murder (19:6). Finally, the sixth commandment requires that intentional, first degree murder is to be punished by death (19:11-12). This includes not pitying murders and being lenient with them (19:13). The prohibition against murder is the command to love and protect life.
Loving and protecting life means observing due process. Two or three witnesses are necessary to convict (19:15), and false witnesses must be held accountable for their lies (19:19). This means that a testimony may not be anonymous. God requires that false witnesses not be pitied, and that they receive equitable punishment for what they intended to do to their neighbor. At the heart of the prohibition against murder is the sin of hatred. Ultimately, hatred is the sin of hating life in some way. Proverbs describes a false witness as one who hates his own life (Pro. 29:24). This is what distinguishes intentional and unintentional murder as well as the punishment of false witnesses (19:4, 6, 11, cf. 19:19). Of course this is exactly what Jesus explains (Mt. 5:21-22), and John says explicitly that he who hates his brother is a murderer and does not have eternal life within him (1 Jn. 3:15). To have the life of God within us means loving our neighbor and giving up ourselves for their good just as Christ laid down his life for us (1 Jn. 3:16ff).
Conclusions & Applications
Hatred is ultimately a fashionable way of loving death. Proverbs says that those who hate wisdom love death, and those who sin wrong their own life (Pr. 8:35-36). Loving wisdom is the love of life; despising wisdom is the love of death. It is no accident that a culture that rejects the wisdom of God’s word is busy inventing ways to look like the Night of the Living Dead. The tattooing, piercing, everything black-torn-and-disheveled look is a cultural expression that results from the cultural guilt of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and popular ways oppressing of the poor, the weak, and the disabled. When people have blood on their hands they try to make it look cool. But we must love life.
Jesus said that the entire law is summarized as love of God and neighbor. The entire logic of the gospel is that reconciliation with God means the reconciliation of all things. If God has come down to us in all our grime, in all our sin, in all our weakness, then how can we not bestow this same kindness upon our spouses, our children, our neighbors, and yes, even our enemies (Mt. 5:43-48)? As you celebrate Advent, celebrate the great mercy of God in bestowing his life upon us in the person of Jesus. But God did not just come as a great “force.” God came to us with hands and feet, eyes and ears, and a mouth. He came as a crying infant. So much hatred and bitterness is built on a false sense of justice – if-I-don’t-who-will kind of justice – but God became a helpless baby for your justification.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty and most merciful God, who has come to our aid and given us life through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we ask that you would make us people who rejoice in life. Teach us to delight in our children and families, grant us grace to love our enemies, and give us the love of wisdom which delights in your justice.