Exodus 20:13. You shall not murder
Furthermore, this commandment does not forbid war. The pros and cons of a particular war are not to be considered here. I am simply saying that legitimate warfare may be God’s way of dealing out judgement to offending nations. In Exodus 22:23-24 we read that the sword is God’s punishment for taking advantage of the helpless. I am not debating the merits or otherwise of just war, or the option of passivism. Nor am I debating the issues of conscientious objection. I am simply saying that if you hold the view that war is wrong you cannot use this commandment to justify your view as it does not forbid war. However, I should add that all wars are horrendous and should be avoided wherever and whenever possible. But is it possible to avoid war entirely in a fallen world?
The next thing this commandment does not forbid is self-defence. To defend yourself or your family is to take proper and just action in case of aggression. The very fact that God set aside cities of refuge for people who may be the victims of a family revenge is an act of self-defence. David took an action of self-defence in 1 Samuel 27 when he thought through the issues of Saul’s hatred and decided to get out of the way. There’s an interesting narrative in 2 Samuel 2 when an incident takes place between two men. The one is named Abner and the other Asahel. The one wants to constantly provoke the other and challenge him to a duel. Finally Abner says to Asahel ‘Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground?’ (verse 22). He is finally forced into a position of self-defence and kills him, but he is not blamed for it. There is nothing in the Bible that stops us from taking action to defend ourselves with force if necessary.
This commandment does not forbid us killing animals for food. In fact, the Bible gives us a whole list of animals which may be killed and eaten (see Leviticus 11).
This, in turn, raises questions about the attitudes of some environmentalists and conservation bodies. As Christians we obviously support the idea of caring for the earth. Irresponsible destruction of the environment or animal life is an abuse of the privilege God has given to man to dominate the earth. But having said that, we must be careful of the extremes to which some people go. Environmentalism sometimes takes on overtones of a religion in some quarters so that the worship of nature which the apostle Paul warned us against in Romans 1 is being seen again. They worship the creation rather than the creator.
The Bible does not forbid engaging in the public protection of society. When the Bible forbids us to kill, it also implies that the opposite affirmations have to be engaged in. In other words if the Bible says to me I must not murder, it also means that I must protect someone else from being murdered. I must take action if there is unnecessary aggression in society against anybody or any group of people. I must act in the interests of public and social order. In Leviticus 20 and 24 this is described and illustrated by the commands God gives His people on how they are to behave in society. In Exodus 22:26 you will see that the New International Version has headed this paragraph ‘Social Responsibility’.
This is another way of talking about loving others.
Dear Lord. Give us a heart for other people. And help us also to always value your whole creation. Amen