At first reading, the sixth commandment seems to be a no-brainer. As it appears in the King James translation: "Thou shalt not kill." There it is. Plain and simple. Don't kill anybody. No need to spend a whole column on that, because we know that none of us is a murderer. Unless you take someone's life, you have not broken this law. Right?
Well if people were
nothing more than life-filled bodies, that would probably be the
case. However, we are more than that. We are each a soul, a spirit,
living within a physical encasement. While it is by that encasement
that others recognize us one from another, it is that soul that
makes us who we are.
Is murder, then, only doing harm to that physical encasement, or body? Could it extend to harming the spirit? How can a spirit be harmed?
As is often the case, we turned to Jesus' own teachings for an answer. In Luke 17:1-2, we found these words from Jesus: "Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble."
God recognizes that we're all going to make mistakes. We are, after all, human! But, our purpose is to help one another, rich or poor, beautiful or homely, black or brown or yellow or white. From the passage above, we realize God does not take kindly to us doing something that causes another to stumble, by causing them to lose their faith or their willingness to give of themselves to others and to God.
We are each examples and teachers through our lives and our actions. In Matthew, 23:23, we are told: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
These passages are powerful and somewhat frightening. How can we be sure we're not neglecting the important matters of the law?
Our own John Wesley created a three-part formula of the Rules, which included: It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation. First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind...
First, by doing no harm. That would mean not, for example, insisting on our own way, or preventing those who are so moved to share their gifts to the glory of God, or causing others to stumble and fall away from their faith. That would mean that we remember God's rules, not ours, are the ultimate rules.
In Matthew 12:33, we read, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." We will all be known by our acts and our influence on the body of Christ.
By what sorts of fruit are you recognized?