I Am Guilty

Letter from the Pastor
Josiah Katumu

Recent events in our country got me thinking about the sixth commandment and in particular, Jesus’ explanation of this law in Matthew 5. While it is easy to see how the sixth commandment addresses the heinous act that is abortion, we usually neglect other ways in which we may be guilty of breaking it. Jesus’ point in Matthew 5 is that we are not simply called to only follow the letter of the law and ignore its spirit. Keeping the law externally in order to gain favor with God while at the same time breaking it inwardly is wrong. There should be a correspondence between inner disposition and outward action, a correlation between our hearts and our deeds, because God is interested in our loyalty and not our legalism.

So what is murder? Murder is a brazen assault on God himself! As people made in His image we are more like him than any other creature He created. We were made to reflect and proclaim His glory; to unlawfully take someone’s life is an attempt to kill God himself [Gen. 9:6]. Calvin says that, “The hand, indeed, gives birth to murder, but the mind when infected with anger and hatred conceives it”. For us to murder there must be anger and hatred otherwise, there wouldn’t be murder. God wants to deal with our anger and hatred as much as he wants to deal with committing the act itself. The God who sees in secret is affronted not only by the fruit - murder, but by the root - hatred. [Green] Jesus applies this passage to the words of the lips and the thoughts of the heart as well as to overt acts of hatred. The commandment deals with inward realities as well — in this case, those inner attitudes that, if left unchecked will result in murder. When we seethe with rage that is unjust and unchecked, we have broken the sixth commandment.

While it may be hard to distinguish between righteous and sinful anger at times, when we are angry at our fellow brothers and sisters we may want to seek God’s wisdom to know why we are so angry so that we do not plant seeds of hatred in our hearts or wish harm upon our brothers and sisters. There’s anger that burns and speedily passes and anger that lingers on; it broods; anger which we sometimes never let to die; it is selfish anger, anger which will not forget, or forgive; anger which seeks revenge (James 1:20). We need to keep in mind that it’s not just anger in our hearts that’s sinful, but also anger in our speech, insulting God’s image bearers. The Greek word for insult, ‘raca’ is almost untranslatable, but may mean, ‘empty.’ It describes a tone of voice more than anything else; it’s an accent of contempt. “To call a man Raca was to call him a brainless idiot, a silly fool, an empty-headed blunderer. It is the word of one who despises another with an arrogant contempt.” (Barclay)

When we treat others with contempt, we ignore their dignity as image bearers because we are filled with pride, either due to our birth, race, status or education. It’s an ugly thing, and we must be careful not to look with contempt upon those whom Christ died for. Even calling others “you fool”. The Psalmist describes the fool as someone who says there is no God, and because of that they live loose moral lives (Ps.14:1). To call someone a fool is to take their reputation and their name and to brand them as loose living people. The punishment for those who do so is with fire of Gehena. It is a severe punishment for those who tell malicious stories, those who gossip and destroy the reputation and name of their brothers and sisters.

As I mentioned above, it is easy for us to see how abortion, the innocent killing of unborn babies goes against this command. Yet there’s also a more subtle and hidden sin we don’t always recognize, that of racism and prejudice! Having contempt for those who have a different skin color. Any other form of contempt towards another human being is a violation against those who are made in God’s image, those who did not choose to be conceived or be born of a certain race. We are called to justly defend, protect and preserve the life of the voiceless and innocent, so we may not be guilty by omission. (WLC).

Jesus says we must always seek to be reconciled with those we wrong or those who have wronged us, and we do so with urgency of trying to right the wrong, so that our worship may be acceptable before the Lord. Otherwise, our relationship with God suffers when we are not relating rightly with others. This also applies to those people we may have held in contempt, those we may have wrong thoughts about. We may never have struck someone, but can we say we have never wished to strike someone? Our thoughts are just as important as our deeds; we are judged not only by our deeds, but also by our desires, which never emerge in our actions. This is unlike the world, which judges us by our actions and not our thoughts. It’s a good thing that God alone can judge us, because He alone knows the secrets of our hearts! Can you imagine if people were able to see all your thoughts and desires? There are many who can pass with flying colors the external standards of the world and collapse at the “all seeing-eye of God.”

During these hard times of racial tensions, I pray that God would reveal to us how we have failed to keep His commands. Our desires and thoughts are not perfect; neither does Jesus expect us to be. That’s why we run to Christ, not only to seek forgiveness, but because it is only in Him who lives in us that our thoughts and desires can be changed. It is only by His righteousness alone and not ours are we reconciled to God. Jesus’ new standard takes away our pride and exposes our external moral standards and forces us to Jesus Christ in whose righteousness we can trust.

Prayer Guide

1 John 1:8-10

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Lord, if you marked our transgressions none of us could ever stand…

Yet, you are filled with mercy and grace. When we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to forgive us…

Forgive us for breaking your law…
For times we have hatred those who are made in your image…
For times we have held others in contempt…
For times we have sinned in our anger against others…
For times our thoughts and attitudes towards others have been impure…
For times we have looked the other way when vulnerable brothers and sisters needed our help…
For times we have kept silent when voiceless brothers and sisters needed us to speak on their behalf…
For times when self-preservation and our own comforts were more important to us than caring for the weak and vulnerable…

Faithful Father, forgive and cleanse us from our sin…
Renew our minds so we may be more like you…
May we be known for our love, mercy, kindness, generosity and grace…

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