Exodus 20:13
Thou shalt not kill

Authored By Elder Tomoo Kuge, Osaka, Japan

1. Today is August 15th, the day of [our] defeat in war. I just used the words "defeat in war." I think it is important to acknowledge that this day is the day that Japan made an unconditional surrender - because we have never thought deeply about why the government and the politicians usually call it "That unfortunate war," or why Japan was driven to such a point, and why what we used to believe was mistaken. I can't help but say that [our] awareness of this defeat, to which our own sins have lead us, is very very limited. The German Prime Minister Weizsäcker put it like this: "He who shuts his eyes to the past will, in short, not be able to see the present either." Compared to the honesty by which he made that statement as he reflected upon the war crimes of the Germans, we are [more] inclined to be vague and gloss over the whole thing. On this day, upon which we should give deep thought, especially to peace, I feel the scripture given for today is intensely meaningful. I would like for us to prayerfully read from Exodus chapter twenty and verse thirteen.

2. "Thou shalt not kill," (Exodus 20:13). No explanation is needed for these words. Having nothing to do with whether you're a Christian or not, no Japanese, indeed nobody in the whole world, would say "I disagree" to these words as he or she looks right at them. Yet, the twentieth century has been one hundred long years during which some one hundred million persons had been killed. It was a century where more people were killed than any other period in human history. Even Japan lost the lives of several tens of millions [of people] from the Japan-Russia War [at the turn of the century] to the conclusion of the Pacific War [at mid century], and it took the lives of as many more people. It wasn't just from the wars. There have also been times when we have made decisions where the state leadership was wrong, but it led to the starving of tens of millions of people to death. Not limited to what we might call a holocaust or mass slaughter, but we are told that Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whom we respect, planned the assassination of Hitler. Also, not only historical situations like that but even today right before our eyes, we're there where we're waiting for the death sentence of a criminal who stabbed a student to death in a school in a neighboring town. As shocking experiences for me, though, there are times for the death sentence for certain murders. There was a murderer who worked together with partners and who destroyed a building and killed 168 people including many children in Oklahoma City. He was executed by injection while some of the parents kept watch through a glass window. To the very end he never said he was sorry. Among the parents there were voices saying we will make you suffer more and we ought to kill you by slow death. They only had hatred for him, and it was a scene we might call a victory for the devil. As we've seen then, we understand that the very clear commandment of "Thou shalt not kill" is really not so clear.

3. We have lived in this kind of twentieth century, but can we today give an answer back so quickly when we are asked by children why one should not kill? [Can we] because the Bible teaches us to? Actually when we read the Old Testament, we'll notice a passage where the Lord God gives the command to "Kill all the people." [It includes] even women, children, and cattle. It would seem that a discrete person might instead bring punishment upon them. For example, please read Joshua chapters seven and eight later. This could be more and more confusing to some of us, but generally the Mid Eastern nations, which are considered to be more zealous in faith than Japan, cannot stop killing each other.

4. But, here we have the words of the Lord Jesus which come to mind right away. Let's read from Matthew chapter five beginning in verse twenty-one.


Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
- Matthew 5:21-26

6. Jesus quoted today's verse, the sixth command of "Thou shalt not kill" from the Decalogue. When [we] hear this message from the Lord on it, we get scared because we've called people we know so well on many occasions "fool" and "stupid." How about all of you? When I was a youth, I hoped dead seriously that the airplane which a certain person was riding would fall. I would put off that feeling from me immediately, but it would come back piled up in me [higher than before]. I wished for [this person] to disappear out of my sight. At root I had a lot of anger. When I dig down deeper and give it greater thought, I understand better now. I was right and the other [person] was wrong. That's why I was judging [the person] in my heart. I was wanting everywhere in my heart for the Lord to judge this person. I think [you'd] understand; I had a claim that I was more in the right than [this other person]. This claim for righteousness [would] not forgive [someone's] unrighteousness. Looking at the real problem there in the situation, the Lord stated that getting angry at one's brother is murder.

7. As we remember these words from the Lord, we notice immediately that the Old Testament also actually says the same thing. Going back into Exodus, take a look at chapter twenty-one, verse twelve, the next chapter after the Decalogue.


He that smiteh a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. But, if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die. And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
- Exodus 21:12-17

9. As a sin worthy of death, having intent to kill and using violence, hitting one's parents, just cursing them, one is sentenced for death. Also, kidnapping someone, that is, when you steal a person, it is deemed worthy of death. It clearly states in the text that this is worthy of death, to rob someone's freedom and to increase your own.

10. Thus as we've seen, we come to understand that the Bible, both in the New and the Old Testaments, does not just simply say that killing is wrong, but takes issue with the most fundamental being of a person, the mind of a person, and how the heart ought to be. That's where a person's sin will be called into account.

11. I would like for us to look at a decisive murder case which the Bible speaks of, only another key to understand the commandment of "Thou shalt not kill." It is Genesis chapter four. It is the story of the older brother Cain who became jealous that God looked over his younger brother Abel, but would not look over him, and so he ended up killing him. Doesn't anybody feel pity for the older brother? Were I in his place myself, I don't think I would have killed my brother. John says that the Lord Jesus Christ loves us and died on the cross for us so that we do not become like Cain. The New Testament has the following words.

12. Do not be like Cain.

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
- First John 3:15-16

13. Christ died for sinful persons like us and he reconciled us to God so that we might escape God's judgment. How can I hate and kill these brothers of mine, whom Jesus loves? [We] have here the only way to always hold fast and keep the commandment to not kill. We can witness to it. It's not just about not killing, but the way to live by loving one another and being forgiving is by being with Christ, it is [by being] under the cross. I say it again. It is not mere teaching or logic, but rather, not killing but loving becomes a reality by the very relationship we have in Christ.

14. The Old Testament poet put it like this: "Put your mouth to the dust," (Lamentations 3:29). Dust could be defined as the mistakes we're ashamed of, our sin. Don't deceive yourself. But rather, put your mouth to the dust, [the poet] said. At that time we begin to understand the love that Christ demonstrated and hope is born. A nation is the same way. On this special day called today, we preserve the nation or as we say things for the national cause, we now need to rethink again why the Japanese have robbed so many lives. We are to honestly confront our past mistakes. For, isn't there a way to live anew and afresh in that? God says this. "Thou shalt not kill."

15. Let's pray.

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