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Getting Away with Murder

by Skip Heitzig |
You may have memorized the Ten Commandments and can quickly bring to mind the sixth one—it's one of the shortest: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Maybe you've even thought, Okay, the other commandments are relevant to my life, but I can tune out this one, because it has absolutely nothing to do with me. But I would venture to say that all of us have gotten away with murder, if we apply the meaning of Jesus Christ and His words in the New Testament.

The Hebrew word used for murder in this commandment speaks of the intentional killing of another human being for personal reasons. But let's go a little bit deeper. Ever since the fall, we have all been born depraved and in need of a Savior. A famous text of Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). That's where the underlying attitude of murder originates: in the human heart.

Jesus made this even clearer in Matthew 5: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (vv. 21-22).

Jesus certainly widened the definition and consequences of murder, didn't He? He was saying, "You think murder is simply an action that begins in the hands; I'm telling you it's an attitude that begins in the heart." I think when Jesus said this, the crowd He was speaking to was blown away: "He just accused all of us of being murderers!" The Greek word used for anger in verse 22 refers to a brooding, seething, nurtured anger. It's holding a grudge against someone and saying spiteful, gossiping things to tear them down. Most of us haven't gone out and killed someone, but by this definition, we've all committed murder.

Verses 23-24 reveal the remedy for this attitude: "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

I call this active forgiveness. With active forgiveness, you deal with anger in three steps: first, admit it. If you don't admit there's a problem, you won't fix it. Next, correct it. God says, "If you want to come closer to Me, then you come to Me through that reconciliation with another person." In theology, sometimes the shortest distance between you and God is another person. The third step is to expedite it—don't allow bitterness or anger to develop and boil up. In Ephesians 4:26, Paul said, "'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath." Admit it, correct it, and expedite it.

We have all committed murder in some form or fashion. And any time we tear down or destroy another person, it's serious, and we must deal with it. No one gets away with murder. If you have hate in your heart toward another person, it will eventually destroy you as it eats away at your spiritual life and hurts others in the body of Christ.

Let's ask the Lord for clean hands and a pure heart and receive the forgiveness that comes whenever we confess. But part of that confession must necessitate going to those with whom we have an issue. Only then we can return and worship with intimacy and freedom—we can, as Paul said, be "innocent of the blood of all men" (Acts 20:26).

In His strong love,

Skip Heitzig

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