Choose Life

Chicago, where I live, has a murder problem. In 2016 there were 751 murders. Thus far, in 2017, there have been 368 murders, and the year is only half over.

How bad is the murder problem in Chicago? Although Chicago is half the size of New York City, it has more than twice as many murders. It’s so bad that a relative of mine told me she was afraid to visit Chicago, and she lives in Israel, a place most Americans mistakenly think is dangerous! Beyond that, I have even worse news: in addition to the homicide statistics, we commit murder in more ways than we ever thought.

A few weeks back we began looking at the Ten Words that Will Change Our Lives. We’re examining what the Bible calls, “The Ten Words” or what most English translations call “The Ten Commandments.” So far we’ve covered five words The first word that we talked about was believe, as in believe in the One true God! And the second word was prioritize, remember to put the Lord first in everything. The third word was respect, take God’s name seriously. The fourth word was rest, we must take a day to rest our bodies and restore our spirits. The fifth word was parents, we need to honor our parents, even when we become adults. And today’s word is LIFE, we need to be fully pro-life. We are called to promote and preserve life in every way we can.

Exodus 20:13 says, “You shall not murder.” The reason murder is such an affront to God is that people are made in the image of God (Gen 9:6). Many people misunderstand this command and try to broaden it to cover all killing. So let’s be clear, it does not prohibit killing animals for food (Gen 9:2-3), or capital punishment (Gen 9:6), or just war (Rom 13:4), or even self-defense (Ex 23:2-3). It refers to the unjustifiable murder of the innocent.

So how do we commit murder? More ways than we often realize. Of course, one way people murder is by committing homicide. James 4:2 says “You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” James was writing to believers and he meant actual murder. There was a guy I knew from seminary, who coveted so much, that first he stole from a couple he knew and then, to cover his theft, he murdered them. Ultimately, when he was about to be caught, he killed himself.

But there are other ways we murder. Some states permit euthanasia even though God says, “It is I who gives life and puts to death”( Deut 32:39). Another way is the permission our federal government has given for abortion even though the Psalmist declared that God made a remarkable and wonderful life in the womb (Psa 139:13-14). The Scriptures also teach that there are metaphorical ways we murder, like abusing the poor (James 5:6) or hating others–1 John 3:15 says, “ Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” We even murder through slandering others. As Proverbs 11:9 says, “With his mouth the ungodly destroys his neighbor.”

That said, what seems more important is to discover how we can promote life. Here are just a few suggestions from Scripture. We can seek reconciliation rather than strife. Rom 12:18 says “if possible , on your part, be at peace with everyone.” To promote life we must also learn the secret of contentment with what God has given us. Paul said “In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content.” (Phil 4:12). It’s also crucial to learn to practice generosity with the poor, remembering that “He who gives to the poor, lends to the Lord (Prov 19:17). We are also called to love our neighbors as ourselves (Lev 19:18). To avoid harming others with our speech, we must discipline our words, because “the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov 12:18). Ultimately, according to Prov 24:11-12, we must also pursue justice for those who are innocent, preserving their lives rather than hiding our eyes from injustice.

In the great book of Jewish wisdom, the Talmud, there is a reminder about the importance of promoting life. It says, “Whoever destroys a single life, it is as if he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life it is as if he had rescued the entire world” (Sanhedrin, 37a). Friends, let’s go rescue the world.

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