[Back to blogging after a few busy holiday weeks and a couple of bouts with illness.]
The Fifth Commandment
“You shall not kill.”
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor’s life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life. [Luther's Small Catechism, Tappert ed.]
Our four-year-old has a love for drawing and painting. She loves bright colors and uses them exuberantly. Her mother is constantly buying more crayons or colored pencils or paint and books and paper upon which daughter can create. Even as she has discovered her own love to create, daughter is asking questions about how God creates. Wisely, her mother tells her that God is the first artist.
Daughter raises other questions about how God creates us male and female. We answer simply that God creates us male or female in our mother’s tummies. She asks if our puppy was created in her doggy mother’s tummy. We answer: “Yes.” When she asks when she will be a Mommy, we tell her when she grows up and marries the right man who loves God and her.
The psalmist says to God: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16).
As the late John Paul II taught incessantly, God is pro-lifelong. God values our lives from conception to the grave. Our value is not based upon our usefulness. Even when our lives began from violence, even when our bodies are different, and even when our bodies have begun to waste away from disease or illness, God still looks at His good creation and says: “Very good!” We Christians teach that each life is more precious, lovable, and valuable than God’s own life. We can say that, because God’s Son Jesus suffered and died in a human body for the sin of the world! God is pro-lifelong.
Because creation is broken since the rebellion of the first parents, human life doesn’t always begin with the loving desire to nurture a child within the normative husband-wife relationship of lifelong faithfulness. Broken humans place ourselves in the center, the place that rightly belongs to God alone. Because of this ongoing rebellion against God, we assert everything in terms of our rights. It’s a very popular notion easily sold by politicians that it’s about what we want to do with “our” bodies. Rebellious women and men tell God: “Keep your laws off ‘my’ body!” More than 53 million Americans have been legally killed in the womb by rebellious men and women. Some insist it isn’t murder…as if the reality of human life were a matter of choice.
More than 53 million Americans won’t be there to be raised by parents who would have willingly adopted them. More than 53 million Americans won’t be there to provide for the retirement years of those generations that threw them away as “unwanted cells.” Our bodies know when we have lied to ourselves in order to commit evil legally or not. How many women and men have stayed awake entire nights living with remorse and sorrow over that legal choice to kill their child – one of the more than 53 million?
One Roman Catholic priest said that murder is objective moral evil. This does not mean that there is no forgiveness for those that kill. It means that she or he must confess the sin of murder when she or he has taken a life precious to God. In the case of murder not sanctioned by a government, there are always legal consequences. The deeper consequences of unconfessed sin before God is that God cannot forgive the one who refuses to admit sin. It is not that God is unwilling. It is that the murderer is unwilling to face the truth about her or himself. She or he will not listen to or admit the truth about the self.
Martin Luther recognizes that the command against murder is not all that God has to say about the value of each life. This command is about valuing life outside the womb. This command encompasses the Lord Jesus’ own command to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25). Christians of good will can disagree about a government’s role in providing for the needs of those that do not have, but they cannot disagree about what God expects of those that are His own through the washing of Holy Baptism. We are still called to heed the prophet’s message: “Do justice; love kindness; walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Many Christian denominations have their own social service providers. We Lutherans have the widely respected Lutheran World Relief (lwr.org) that reaches out to those places in the world where human life is threatened and discounted. Around theUnited States, Lutheran Social Service agencies are involved in adoption, care for abused children and those caught up in substance abuse, in disaster relief, and in care for the profoundly disabled and for the elderly. With our dollars, gifts in kind, and our service hours, we answer the Lord’s call to care for the least of these His sisters and brothers.
Because evil is so pervasive in the world, we Lutherans are typically not pacifists. We place ordained pastors in military chaplaincies and support and encourage those that serve in the military as a type of love for the neighbor threatened by evil. Even though the taking of life in a military conflict (or law enforcement action) is a type of legal murder, we recognize that the child of God who kills in the service of his or her country knows that she or he has taken a life precious to God. The confession of sin and the pastoral care of souls is part of the Church’s ministry to those who answer God’s call to love and protect the weak neighbor from evil by taking up arms in the military or law enforcement.
Humans caught up in rebellion against God invariably insist that there is no such thing as “normative relationships” or no such thing as a metanarrative (a story that explains the meaning and goal of human life). Not so curiously they rail against traditional Christians as a threat to life as they know it. Of course, they are partly right. Christians that stand for the value of each life bother greatly those that insist that life is a choice rather than a gift. History is a great teacher about which worldview is more dangerous. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot are just a few of the monsters that have taught that life is a choice and not a gift.
For a thought-provoking 33 minutes of your life, check out the sometimes shocking and graphic video at: http://www.180movie.com.
Don’t let small children watch this!