Engraved in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., are the words of Thomas Jefferson who said, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
That quote reveals the indispensable worldview that gave birth to this great nation. God gave us life! This was not a novel idea. The Psalmist said it this way: “Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”1
That reality carries with it an immense sense of wonder and awe. As we have previously discussed, it cries out for a response, a certain attitude from the created towards the Creator. If only God creates life, shouldn’t we listen to Him when he sets the parameters for that life?
It is with that humbleness that we approach the sixth commandment, which tells us, “You shall not murder.”2
Such a simple and reasonable command from the Creator really needs no explanation. Its truth is self-evident. Yet, as St. Augustine so eloquently put it, “[T]he intelligent are infected by a gross mental disorder which makes them defend the irrational workings of their minds as if they were logic and truth itself, even when the evidence has been put before them as plainly as is humanly possible.”3 I can only agree with his conclusion that, “[W]e are forced very often to give an extended exposition of the obvious, as if we were not presenting it for people to look at, but for them to touch and handle with their eyes shut.”4
Take the most callous violation of this commandment in America today: abortion. When this debate started, abortion supporters argued that what doctors where taking out of a mother’s womb was not a person; it was just a “fetus.” The words of Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun in allowing abortion in the Roe v. Wade case, should never be too far away from our minds: “[i]f this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe's] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment.”5
Yet today, even after science has opened the window to the womb with technologies like 3D and 4D ultrasound, proving that what we are dealing with here is indeed a baby, the most vulnerable of all human beings, we continue to sanction the practice of abortion to the tune of 50 million lives taken since Roe.
But we need not go to the extreme example of abortion when exploring the scope of this commandment. Its truth is much more profound.
Here is what Jesus Christ said in relation to it:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be 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.6
Meditating on this word will open up the horizon of our understanding. We are created in the image of God.7 Therefore, every human being must be treated with respect and dignity. God created all. Not just those who believe in Him. All.
It should be no surprise, then, that we are commanded to love even our enemies. Jesus says again:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?8
Do you see how powerful this teaching is? How liberating?
It was the pursuit of these teachings that permitted this nation to be born, against all odds! “The pursuit” of these teachings. Our Founders most definitely did not live up to these standards. Neither do we. The problem lies in that we have lost the hunger and will to follow these self-evident truths. We no longer know, or are interested in knowing, what is right. We create our own “right.” We have lost the thirst to pursue God’s principles, and we are paying the price. That is also self-evident.
We have no excuse. As a nation, we have seen firsthand the blessings that follow a commitment to the principles of our Christian foundations.
Peter Bulkley, the Puritan leader who founded the city of Concord, Massachusetts, said this:
We are as a city set upon a hill, in the open view of all the earth. We profess ourselves to be a people in covenant with God, and therefore the Lord our God will cry shame upon us if we walk contrary to the covenant which we have promised to walk in. If we open the mouths of men against our profession, by reason of the scandalousness of our lives, we (of all men) shall have the greater sin.9
There is still time to turn to God. His mercy and grace have sustained us through some very tough times. May we turn back to Him once again and repent. May we remember that our Founders pursued His guidance and recognized His unquestionable hand in the events that gave birth to our country. May we do so again. Or, as Benjamin Franklin once asked, “do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?”10
- Psalm 100:3 (NKJV).
- Exodus 20:13. Notice the commandment deals with “murder” and not “killing,” as it is sometimes translated.
- St. Augustine, City of God 48 (Penguin Classics ed., Penguin Books 1984) (1467).
- Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 156-57 (1973).
- Matthew 5:21-22. Notice again, as with “murder,” the qualification: “without a cause.”
- Genesis 1:27.
- Matthew 5:43-46.
- “The American Patriot’s Bible,” Dr. Richard G. Lee, General Editor 1096 (Thomas Nelson 2009).
- “[H]ave we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?” Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention, July 28, 1787.