Thou Shalt Not Murder
First, let's get the academic debate out of the way. The King James translates this term "kill" only one time: this time. Elsewhere, the same term is rendered manslayer, murderer, or slayer. And, of course, most other modern translations are clear to use the term murder in this command. This command does not negate or contradict other scripture--scripture which commanded military conquest, capital punishment, or divine judgment. It is not a ban on killing. It is a ban on murder.
So what's the difference? All of the above--military conquest, captial punishment, divine judgment--entail the taking of a life at the command of God and for the preservation of His glory. Murder, on the other hand, is taking a life for our purposes. It's killing to meet solely our needs, our requirements, or to fulfill our rage. Quite simply, murder makes us into gods.
But here is the shocking truth. Each man causes death. Every man is a killer. But not every man is a murderer. Every man is a killer in one of three ways:
- 1 John 3:12 says Cain killed Abel, "Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous." When we kill out of envy or selfish ambition, we murder. When we malign, slander, or hate for such reasons, we are murderers.
- So, what if we reverse the motives listed in 1 John 3:12. Are we then no longer murderers? How many times throughout the history of the church have men killed, "because his own actions were righteous and his brother's were evil." Cain killed because he realized his own iniquity. But if we view ourselves as righteous, incomparably better than our brother, and thus kill, slander, malign, or hate him as a result, we are no less guilty of murder.
- What can we do then? We must become killers. We must take a life. But it is not our brother's. "We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16). The follower of Christ will, in view of Christ's example, forfeit his own life for the sake of his brother's--in word, in attitude, or even in deed.