For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 1 John 3:11-16 (NRSV)
Today being the 16th anniversary of 9-11, we may think for a minute of where we were in those horrible hours and how we felt.
We felt violated, invaded, vulnerable, and wondering where would the terrorists strike next.
It’s easy and very human to paint with a broad brush, to assume that everyone who is a specific nationality or of a specific tradition wishes us harm and that they will perpetrate it. It’s easy to return hate for hate. It is much harder to pray for those who wish us harm and to see Jesus even in them.
As individual people it is not our place to rain down judgment upon those who commit evil acts. Yes, from a legal and moral standpoint we are permitted to defend our families and ourselves- as self defense is a human right- but only as a last resort.
As Jesus followers we are called to love. Love leads to life. Hate leads to murder and death, whether or not it is justified.
Martin Luther spoke in great depth on the Ten Commandments, as the Law shows us how God wants us to live, as well as the boundaries He has given us for our behavior and our dealings with Him and others.
“Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to everyone, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you. For to do evil to one who wishes and does you good is not human, but diabolical.
Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him and yet does not do it. If, therefore, you send away one that is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death; you see one suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. And it will not avail you to make the pretext that you did not afford any help, counsel, or aid thereto for you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit whereby his life would have been saved.” – Martin Luther, from the explanation of the 5th Commandment, The Large Catechism
The 5th Commandment sounds easy on the surface: You shall not murder. But there is so much more to murder than simply refraining from killing people (murder meaning killing another’s body– excluding killing in war or killing in self-defense.) I’m not a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Ted Bundy- but I am just as guilty of violating the 5th Commandment regularly. We all do it. Sin is hardwired into us.
Murder is more than causing cessation of life in another’s body without a justifiable reason. Murder includes murder of character (that bit about “employing one’s tongue to instigate (harm)” or setting someone up for failure from afar.
Humans love gossip. We also love to have a pecking order in which A. is better than B. but B. is so much better than C. or heaven forbid, D. We all do it, whether we consciously realize it or not, and it’s murder- murder of heart and soul and character.
Withholding love is the same as active hate. If we have the means to show love to others, and we refrain from doing it, we are still living in hate.
As the writer of 1 John says: All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.
That’s a hard truth to accept– especially when we feel compelled to help everyone, but only have the means and ability to help a few. It’s hard to love when others actively hate us and do cruel things or say cruel things about us.
The good news is that God knows our limitations and accepts our frailties.
As a Jesus follower we are called to do something radically different than what human nature expects.
Love one another.
Especially the weirdos, the haters, the tweakers, the freaks, and geeks. Love them even more.