It didn’t take long to record the first murder in human history. The Bible’s first death was a homicide. Cain, enraged with resentment, jealousy and anger attacked his brother and killed him. Since that moment much of human history has been written in blood.
We are all too familiar with headline news for mass shootings, terrorist attacks and violent conflict around the world. Just last week another school shooting took place in Santa Fe, Texas. Even small towns are not immune. Murders occur in every city in every region. Globally more than one person dies every minute of every day as the result of violence.
Most of us abhor murder. But we cannot ignore its presence. On the other hand, most of us accept the necessity of killing in warfare. We spend billions of dollars every year to make sure our young men and women are equipped and trained to kill on the battlefield.
But, there are exceptions.
Desmond Doss, who served in World War II, was committed to honor the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” He refused to carry a firearm or weapon of any kind into combat. Instead, he served as an unarmed Medic. Doss was twice awarded the Bronze Star for exceptional valor under fire in Guam and the Philippines. At Okinawa he served on Hacksaw Ridge, a particularly vicious battle in which he personally saved the lives of 75 wounded GIs. He was wounded four times and survived with seventeen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body. He became the first pacifist to be awarded the Medal of Honor. His story has been captured in several books and a documentary, The Conscientious Objector, along with the movie, Hacksaw Ridge.
Hacksaw Ridge was released on November 4, 2016. It went on to receive six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor. It also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor and was chosen as one of the ten best movies of the year by the American Film Institute.
Jesus took the sixth commandment to a new level. He said, ““You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22).
Jesus dug beneath the surface and unearthed the significance of the sixth commandment. It is all about how we see another human being. Every person is valuable. Every person deserves respect. Regardless of culture, gender, age or race, every human life is to be treasured.
Jesus was consistent in living out what he taught. He embraced the outcast and the poor. Every person he met was precious in his sight. When He was crucified he prayed that God would forgive those who nailed him to the cross and promised paradise to the dying thief. To obey the sixth commandment, we must do more than refrain from inflicting harm on our enemy, we must embrace every person as a precious creation of God.
Bill Tinsley has served as pastor, church planter and missions executive. In 2009 he launched the Tinsley Center, LLC to promote authentic faith that changes lives. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.