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The recent bombings at the Boston Marathon highlight once again how quickly life can be lost. Even most of the unbelieving world would recognize that this act was wrong. Most would also agree that when the older brother was shot by authorities in a shoot—out, killing him  was not murder.

The obvious question then is, “Who has the right to take another’s life?”

God Himself most certainly does. He states through Moses, “There is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal” (Deuteronomy 32:39). We will also concur with the psalmist David when he says, “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15a).

“As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to those of his household.” (Martin Luther)

The Fifth Commandment 

You shall not murder.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor’s body; but we should help and be a friend to him in every bodily need.

Life is precious, and the shortening of one’s time of grace—the period in which God the Holy Ghost can bring people to faith through God’s Word—is serious business. For this reason God sanctions only His representatives in government to end someone’s life. “For he [the governing authority] is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). After the flood of Noah’s time, God made it clear that those who murder have no expectation of having their lives preserved. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6).

In His holy Word God does not leave room for exceptions to this commandment. Suicide, so-called “mercy killing,” and abortion clearly take into human hands what belongs to God. They are murders. Those who felt outrage against a Pennsylvania doctor who allegedly killed newborn babies should have the same outrage against all abortions.

Equally disturbing, and even more deadly, is the court ruling which allows girls as young as fifteen years to abort their babies using the “morning after” pill without the knowledge of their parents. Doing so is murder, for from the moment of conception, babies are not just fetuses or viable fetal tissue but living humans. See God’s Word on it in Psalm 51:5, Psalm 139:13-16, and Jeremiah 1:5.

What about someone who is suffering and no longer wishes to live? Some people wrongly argue that the humane thing is to hasten the death and end the misery of such a person, or give them the means to kill themselves. It’s clear that God does not approve of such “mercy killing.” (Deuteronomy 32:39,  Psalm 31:15a)

Our Guilt

Perhaps nothing mentioned thus far condemns you, for you have not wrongfully killed anyone.

However, none of us is guiltless, as our Catechism says, “We should fear and love God that we do not hurt nor harm our neighbor’s body.” From the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) we learn that anyone with whom we come in contact is our neighbor, both friend and foe alike. We know too that hatred and unrighteous anger are disobedience. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22). The root of murder begins in the sinful human heart, just as do other sins.

It doesn’t take much self-examination to realize that we all have wished and/or done harm to our neighbor through thoughts, words, and actions. We are guilty.

Those who felt outrage against a Pennsylvania doctor who allegedly killed newbornbabies  should have the same outrage against all abortions.

Bullying is an example of such sin in today’s world, especially among young people. Loveless words and deeds which flow from an unclean heart can do lifelong damage to others. Then too, today’s technology has made bullying all that much easier, and perhaps anonymous. But are we not all bullies at times—putting others down in order to raise ourselves up? Let’s remember that God says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:31).

Besides the sins of commission against this Commandment, perhaps greater in number are sins of omission. Luther’s Small Catechism explanation concludes, “but we should help and be a friend to [our neighbor] in every bodily need.” Our sinful nature often reacts, “Really?
We should put the needs of our neighbors above our own? We should love our enemies and protect those who wish only harm upon us?” YES, we should!

During earthly tragedies people often risk their own lives to help others (as was the case in the Boston bombings). Let us pray that we might model this selflessness in our daily lives.

After all, we have the best example to follow in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Let love for others be a reflection of Christ’s love towards us. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus loved all, even those who put Him to death. Remember how He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they
do not know what they do”

(Luke 23:34).