************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 105-107 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 2, 2011
Q & A 105-107
"The Sixth Commandment"
I read a book last week that argued war is good. The times of greatest economic growth occur when there is war or the threat of war. The greatest number of technological advances occur because of military demands. The greatest amount of profit can be earned during times of unrest. Basically, this book is arguing it is a good thing that we humans kill one another.
As of 2005, two million dollars per minute is spent world-wide on military and war-related costs. Which means that during our worship service tonight at least one hundred and twenty million dollars has been spent on military expenses. Countries and terrorists around the world are striving to join the nuclear club. Even with nuclear arms reductions, there are enough nuclear bombs to destroy every city on the globe many times over.
Maybe you've heard of the neutron bomb. It kills people without damaging buildings, property, or land. Do you hear the message? We are being told that property is worth more than people.
One of the blackest days in North American history was January 22, 1973. I was in college then. I couldn't believe what I heard on the news that night. The tragic announcement was made that the U.S. Supreme Court was allowing abortion on demand. The net result is that we have killed more babies by abortion than the Nazis killed Jews in World War II. The largest hospitals in North America now have more abortions than live births. And, to top this off, hospitals make money on aborted babies as the fetuses of aborted babies are sold for stem-cell and other kinds of research.
Yet, at the same time (and I suppose I should be thankful for this), if someone kills a pregnant woman they are often charged with a double homicide. So, what it comes down to is this: it is okay in our land for a woman to kill her baby; but, it is not okay for anyone else to do this. It doesn't make sense but that is the law of the land.
At the other end of the spectrum is euthanasia. I am sure you have heard of Jack Kevorkian, commonly known as "Dr Death." He is best known for advocating a terminal patient's right-to-die via physician-assisted suicide; he said he assisted in the death of at least 130 patients. I didn't know whether to be happy or sad this past June when I read of his death. And, I found myself wondering if someone assisted him in his demise.
What does all this – and lots of stuff I haven't mentioned – tell us? It tell us that our society and our culture is sick. Our society and our culture is sick because it cheapens human life.
I No Murder
A The Bible takes the firmest possible stand against this total disregard for human life. God comes to us in the sixth commandment and declares to us, "You shall not murder" (Ex 20:13).
Even in the Old Testament already this included more than outright murder. Consider the law of the bull:
(Ex 21:28-29) If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. (29) If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death.In the same way, our car or truck can become a two-ton weapon of murder. Did you know that motor- vehicle accidents account for more deaths than all natural disasters combined? If you don't drive responsibly, if you are dumb enough to drink and drive, if you zoom through school zones or around school buses, you could be as guilty of murder as is the owner of a mad bull.
B The Catechism goes even a step further than this. The sixth commandment means "I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor–not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds–and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge."
According to the Catechism, we kill someone if we belittle, insult, or hate them. We kill someone if we laugh at them or poke fun of them. We murder someone if we look down on them for being poor. If someone is desperately lonely we take their life if we purposely exclude them or hit them with a cruel remark. If we call someone a derogatory or degrading name we are sinning against the sixth commandment.
We cannot get away with being a silent bystander either. Think of all the good people in Germany who said and did nothing when the Nazis rounded up and killed Jews and Gypsies and the disabled. Think of the many in our land who say and do nothing about racism and discrimination and turn a blind eye to skin-heads and groups like the Ku Klux Klan. The Catechism identifies all this as a breaking of the sixth commandment.
The Catechism also talks about revenge. There is something within all of us that wants to strike out, get even, and exact revenge. Someone hurts us and we want revenge. Someone hurts a family member and we want revenge. I learned a long time ago a lesson about mothers and their children: like a mother bear, so many mothers want to lash out if they merely think their kid is threatened. I often see this in mothers I least expect it from.
"I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either." Think of what this rules out: misuse of legal or illegal drugs, drinking and driving, abuse of alcohol, over-eating, a refusal to see the doctor, smoking, certain kinds of extreme sports, cycling without a helmet, a failure to use seat belts and other safety equipment.
The Catechism continues with, "Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword." It is the job, duty, and calling of government to preserve life, to protect life, and to respect life. Shame on our government and any government when they fail to do this.
II No Wrong Attitudes
A In forbidding murder we are told that God hates "envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness." These are called the "root of murder." Murder springs out of and finds its source in these sorts of attitudes. They are not only the seeds out of which foul murder springs, they themselves are murderous. God hates our hatred and our anger. They are murder in God's sight. These attitudes not only lead to insulting, hateful deeds but they are the deeds in spirit. When we nurse our wrath to keep it warm and alive we make ourselves murderous.
B When we turn to Scripture we see that natural man is at heart a murderer. Titus 3 describes natural man this way:
(Titus 3:3) At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.Romans 3 describes natural man this way:
(Rom 3:14-17) "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." (15) "Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery mark their ways, (17) and the way of peace they do not know."As the Catechism puts it in Q & A 5, "I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor." This makes man a murderer. Man, by nature, is a person who kills. The seeds of hate are continually active in his soul.
What about those who are saved? Sad to say, we have the same tendencies as the unsaved because the old man of sin within us is not dead, it is merely dying. The only difference is that we are aware of our sin and repent of our sin and fight our sin.
C Why are we murderous? How is this to be explained? Why are we hated and hateful? To put it simply, my brothers and sisters, man is by nature a murderer because he is separated from God. Love comes from God and when man separates himself from God he cuts himself off from love. Cut off from the source of love man quite naturally turns to hatred, greed, envy, anger, selfishness. Cut off from the source of love the result can only be murder. That is why our society is so sick and has such a little regard for human life – it has cut itself off from God.
What is the answer to this deep sickness? You know. Man needs God. America needs God. Canada needs God. The Middle East needs God. Man can only stop being a murderer when he, by grace, turns to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.
III Love Instead of Hate
A The Catechism asks, "Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?" (Q & A 107). The sixth commandment requires more than no murder of us. According to the Catechism, in the sixth commandment "God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them, and to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies." As Matthew 5 tells us, we have to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.
Topic: GracePeter Miller loved his enemy. We are called to do the same with those who oppose us or whom we think oppose us. Of course, in doing this we are being like God:
Subtopic: Love Your Enemies
A story is told of Peter Miller, a Baptist preacher living in Ephrata, Pennsylvania in the days of the Revolutionary War. Near his church lived a man who maligned the pastor to the last degree. The man became involved in treason and was arrested and sentenced to be hanged. The preacher started out on foot and walked the seventy miles to Philadelphia to plead for the man's life. Washington heard his plea, but he said, "No, your plea for your friend cannot be granted." "My friend!" said the preacher. "He is the worst enemy I have." "What!" said Washington, "you have walked nearly seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon."
(Rom 5:8-10) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us ... when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son ...
Love your enemies. Just like God loves you. This is simply impossible if you are not a Christian. However, if you know the love of Jesus, then not only is the old man of sin dying but the new of righteousness is also living.
A Now, why is it that we are not to kill a fellow human being in any way or form? Why is it that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves?
When a devout and zealous Hindu walks down the street, he carefully sweeps before his feet to avoid crushing small bugs, and wears a cheesecloth over his mouth to prevent breathing in and killing even the smallest insect. The Hindu acts this way because of his deep reverence for life. In this, the Hindu is the same as environmentalists, anti-war demonstrators, Greenpeace, and PETA. They all have the deepest respect and reverence for life. All of these have the deepest respect for life just because it is life. To them, life is the highest good. Therefore, we must preserve life because it is life.
B The Christian takes a completely different approach. The Christian also has the highest respect and reverence for life – but not because it is life. There is nothing sacred and holy about life in and of itself. Life is holy and sacred only because of its relationship to God. The Christian respects life, he does not kill, he loves, only because of God.
First, human life is holy and sacred because we are made in the image of God. Man is an image-bearer. He represents God in the universe.
Second, when God created human life He created it good. Remember what God said at the end of six days of creation?
(Gen 1:31) God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Third, all human life comes from God. It didn't just happen. It is not the result of evolution. It is not the by-product of accidental forces. Life is precious and sacred and holy because it is one of God's gifts.
Fourth, human life is so important in God's eyes that God became one of us and died for us upon the cross. Jesus Christ shows us the unsurpassing worth of human life.
Don't forget the setting of the Ten Commandments and the Catechism. We are dealing with the life of gratitude. We are talking about those who have been born-again by the blood and Spirit of Christ. We are talking about those who are saved from their sin and misery.
Those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb do not murder, nor do they have a murderous attitude; instead, they love their neighbor and even show love to their enemy.
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