Honoring Life (Commandment #6)
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAYS 40
What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?
I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds – and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge. I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.
Does this commandment refer only to killing?
By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness. In God’s sight all such are murder.
Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?
No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them, to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.
DEVOTIONAL: SEPTEMBER 10-16
Honoring Life (Commandment #6)
John Calvin stated: “We must seek the good of everyone, friend and foe.” Those words capture well the Heidelberg Catechism’s understanding of the Sixth Commandment: “I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds – and I am not to be party to this in others.” The Sixth Commandment – “Thou shall not murder” – is a call to honor and advance the inherent dignity of human life, the joy of human relationships, and the safety of human society.
Principle, however, does not always translate into practice. John Calvin is a great example of this inner conflict. He called those who disagreed with his teaching on election carping, barking, baying, railing, scoffing dogs, and camels with front-loading feed bags. If we are honest, we can all relate to similar feelings about people in our own lives. We live in broken world and we ourselves, more than we care to confess, are deeply broken people. Still, excuses are inexcusable. No wonder Jesus connected the commandment to a contemptuous heart – a spirit of anger or the use of hateful language (“raca” & “fool”). Sinful attitudes and sinful words are as murderous as the action itself. They are an expression of the demonic arrogance of self-importance rather than the humble graciousness that is to define those who claim the name of Christ.
The Sixth Commandment should stir our conscience to embrace the importance of two critical themes for healthy thinking and living. First, because every person is made in the image of God, we are to hold human life as sacred. Racism, sexism, white nationalism, the Alt-right, Antifa, abortion, murder, or any form of hate-speech are each an assault on the dignity of human life as made in the image of God as well as an assault on God Himself, the One who pronounced His “very good” over all He created. Second, we are to cherish the human family. Our flesh and blood includes more than our bloodline. It includes every child, woman and man from every tribe and nation and people and language. Therefore, we are to treat all people (Philippians 2:1-11), including our enemies or those who have committed evil against us (Romans 12:8), as we desire to be treated (Luke 6:31). John Calvin said it well: “Let us… seek the profit of others, and even voluntarily give up our rights for the sake of others” (Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life). Only through sacrificially imitating the gracious giving of Jesus Christ are we able to advance the inherent dignity of human life, the joy of human relationships, and the safety of human society.
The Sixth Commandment finds its great expression in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3), who did not cherish His own life at the expense of others (Philippians 2:6-8), but sacrificed it to defeat the “power of death – that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14-15) so that we would be and live the “righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Sixth Commandment is about you – your thoughts, words, looks, gestures and deeds. The question we must each ask is this: “If Jesus is unashamed to call me – a broken, discombobulated, and unlovable person – his sibling (Hebrews 2:11), how will I extend the same dignity, joy and safety to others?”
Christians claim a new identity, character and purpose in Jesus. Therefore, we each must choose to live according to the sinful nature or according to our new status in Christ. Which one will you choose?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn
Sunday, September 10
The Catechism states: “God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. To be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them.” Prayerfully reflect on Romans 5:1-2. Describe how your life reflects the theme: “We must seek the good of everyone, friend and foe.” Where does your behavior require rebuke and correction? Where have you demonstrated Spirit-filled growth?
Monday, September 11
The Catechism states: “I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself.” Prayerfully reflect on Romans 13:11-14. Describe how you are putting aside “the deeds of darkness” and putting on “the armor of light.” Are you being sufficiently and responsibly vigilant in protecting your identity as a redeemed image bear of God
Tuesday, September 12
The Catechism states: “I am not to belittle, insult, hate or kill my neighbor – not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not be party to this in others.” Prayerfully reflect on Matthew 5:21-22. Describe how your thoughts, words, looks and gestures in relation to others – those who are adherents of a non-Christian religion, those who are lost in the darkness of sexual immorality, or those who are of a different ethnicity – reflect the holy character of Jesus Christ so that they may be drawn to His grace and truth?
Wednesday, September 13
The Catechism states: “I am to put away all desire for revenge.” Prayerfully reflect on Ephesians 4:25-27. How does anger “give the devil a foothold” in our life? Describe how you will hold sacred the image of God in others, serve the common good of the human family, and demonstrate genuine love by advancing the gospel of unmerited forgiveness in Jesus Christ?
Thursday, September 14
The Catechism states: “By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger vindictiveness. In God’s sight, all such are murder.” Prayerfully reflect on Galatians 5:16-25. Genuine Christians live with the daily tension of understanding the Lord’s will while yet living according to their own sinful desires. Describe how that inner conflict is at work in your life, and identify how you will open your heart to the Spirit’s work of revival and renewal.
Friday, September 15
The Catechism states: “Protection of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.” Prayerfully reflect on Romans 13:1-7. God has instituted government for the sake of the common good – to ensure a civil, just and peaceful society. Describe how your actions either contribute or detract from God’s intended purpose. How will you support or challenge the government for the sake of the common good?
Saturday, September 16
The Catechism states: “God tells us…to protect them (our neighbors) from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.” Prayerfully reflect on Romans 12:9-21. How does your life demonstrate that Jesus is your greatest treasure and that the gracious establishment of His Kingdom of Light in the hearts of children, women and men – including your enemies – is your greatest goal?