Have you ever killed someone? I have… I’m a convicted murderer!
Most of you are going to say no and I suppose it’s possible someone reading this might say yes and they might have taken human life.
Can you define “murder”? Here is the Merriam-Webster definition; the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. Most of us will think of famous serial killers such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy or even someone like Adolph Hitler, but would you ever consider yourself as evil as men like this?
Of course not! We don’t have a tendency to think of ourselves this way; we think we are pretty “good” by our own standards. But Jesus set the bar higher, and by doing so He told us we are every bit as bad as these men if our thought life is out of control.
Matthew 5:21-23 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will in danger of the judgment,’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
This past week I’ve been shown my sin of murder… It’s not a pretty picture. I won’t win any awards for this. I don’t like to admit my faults, and I certainly don’t like to call my faults sin. But this is what I must do. I call myself a Believer and therefore I must confront my sin and I must deal with it. I could ignore it and I could attempt to justify it. But I would only be deceiving myself.
I’ve been reading a book called “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you don’t know anything about Bonhoeffer I really encourage you to investigate; he’s a fascinating man and as I’m reading this book it shakes me to the core of the reality of what a true disciple of Jesus Christ must look like. I look around at those in churches and I don’t see very many disciples.
I see a lot of church goers, I see a lot of religiosity, and I certainly see a lot of deception, not because they are any worse than I am. I see the ugliness of my sin and I hate it. I detest the man I am in my flesh. The only potential difference between me and them is a willingness to deal drastically with my sin when it appears front and center. I don’t speak in specifics. I speak in generalities about this, because I know many people that confront sin within their own lives and within the lives of others, but I can boldly make the statement that most won’t.
Bonhoeffer writes – The judgment he passes on others falls on the murderer himself. In this context “brother” means more than “fellow-Christian”: for the follower of Jesus there can be no limit as to who is his neighbor, except as the Lord decides. He is forbidden to commit murder under pain of divine judgment. For him the brother’s life is a boundary which he dare not pass. Even anger is enough to overstep the mark, still more the casual angry word (Raca), and most of all the deliberate insult of our brother (“Thou Fool”).
Anger is always an attack on the brother’s life, for it refuses to let him live and aims at his destruction. Jesus will not accept the common distinction between righteous indignation and unjustifiable anger. The disciple must be entirely innocent of anger, because anger is an offence against both God and his neighbor. Every idle word which we think so little of betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy. A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing others to despise him. With our hearts burning with hatred, we seek to annihilate his moral and material existence. And the murderer will himself be judged.
When a man gets angry with his brother and swears at him, when he publicly insults or slanders him, he is guilty of murder and forfeits his relation to God. He erects a barrier not only between himself and his brother, but also between himself and God. He no longer has access to him: his sacrifice, worship and prayer are not acceptable in his sight.
So what do I do about it? What do you do about it? What do you think now, do you think you are a murderer on the massive scale of Ted Bundy. These are the hard and challenging words of Jesus Christ that really separate people. When the Lord called Believers to pick up their cross daily and follow Him, this is what He meant. Have you ever sat down with someone and told them that you’ve murdered them. It’s very humbling.
I found that out last week as I confessed my sins to a friend and told him I had murdered him. I told him I’m seeking his forgiveness and I’ve sought forgiveness from God. I confessed and I repented. Now I must turn from my sin and do it no more.
How about you? Certainly nobody has kept this standard, so what will you do with this now that you are no longer ignorant. I suggest you make out a list of your victims. Then you go to each one of them and sincerely seek their forgiveness. Restore the relationship with them so you can restore your relationship to God, fully and without any hindrances. Do it quickly while you have it fresh in your mind, be resolved to not let the sun set on your anger.
Look at what Bonhoeffer says again. Therefore “go thy way, first be reconciled with thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” This is a hard way, but it is the way Jesus requires if we are to follow him. It is a way which brings much personal humiliation and insult, but it is indeed the way to him, our crucified Brother, and therefore a way of grace abounding.
If you don’t think you’re a murderer, you are deceiving yourself.
Repent, turn from your sin and be healed. We all have an opportunity to deal with our sin here on earth, to do the humiliating work now, to seek Christ for His forgiveness or be accountable to Him for our sins at our judgment. He is freely offering forgiveness if we will only humble ourselves before His throne.