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Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not murder.”

One of the great challenges in reading the Bible is how to faithfully and appropriately interpret a verse to figure out what it means. Some verses in the Bible are clear as day: “I am the LORD your God you shall have no other gods!” The LORD wants complete fidelity from His people. Just like a marriage is on the verge of collapse if someone is being unfaithful, so also will a true life-giving relationship with God not be able to exist or flourish if we are “fooling around” with other false gods – money and affluence, sex and power, political ideologies and philosophies, and so on. Other verses like the verse above – the 5th Commandment – can be a bit more difficult to discern, at least on the surface. For example, is it “You shall not murder?” or “Your shall not kill?” Perhaps some confusion for this commandment comes from translation. The vast majority of modern translations have the Hebrew word râtsach translated as “murder” – unlawful killing. Literally, râtsach means to “break” or “dash into pieces” human life. The King James Version has you shall not “kill.” To not “kill” is a bit vague; to not “murder” is a bit more clear…or is it?

Some big debates that have been raging for the last 50 years in America concern human life and actually, these debates go much further back than that. In the midst of moral and ethical discernment, guided and informed by God’s word, what is the appropriate Christian response?
(1) Is abortion, even if legalized in America, still “murder”? Why does the mother have a choice and not the unborn? What rights do the unborn have? What about the father or grandparents of that child? If all human life is precious, isn’t life precious at every stage (Psalm 139:13-16)? The Church’s clear and consistent witness throughout the last 2000 years has been against abortion and infanticide.
(2) Are doctor assisted suicides (euthanasia) to be permitted and legalized nationally? On what grounds? Who determines when “pain and suffering” is unbearable – doctor, patient, spouse? Is that legalized “murder”? If God is the one who “determines our days” (Job 14:5), are we putting ourselves in God’s place?
(3) Is the death penalty an appropriate way to administer justice for heinous crimes and criminals? What if the legal system wrongfully prosecuted someone? If the LORD desires not the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), yet the LORD also gives authority to governments to punish the wrongdoer with the sword (Romans 13:4), what do we say? What do we do?
(4) When is war justifiable? What kind of “killing” or perhaps “murdering” is permitted in war? Are swords, bows and arrows, okay to use but not machine guns, mustard gas, atomic bombs, and drones? Or closer to home: Can a Christian serve God in the military knowing they must kill? Many Christian traditions say yes, to curb a greater evil. A few Christian traditions say no, killing is never justifiable.

I don’t want to gloss over these huge issues that affect real people – people in our church – and in the interest of space and time I can’t go into greater detail, but let those questions unsettle you this week in your mind and heart, in your prayers and discussions with others as you think and wonder about God’s gift of life and His command which protects and upholds the life He gives.

It’s also important to remember the Small Catechism where Luther reminds us how this commandment is ultimately about guarding, preserving, and protecting life: “We are to fear and love God so that we do not hurt our neighbor in any way, but help him in all his physical needs.”

In Christ,
Pastor Chris

This week at Christ the King:
Tuesday, September 19th – 1 PM Ladies’ JOY Book Club
Wednesday, September 20th – 9 AM Quilting
9:30 AM Bible Study – Habakkuk 1-2
7 PM Bible Study
Thursday, September 21st – 10 AM Coffee Clutch w/ the Staff
5:30 PM Finance Meeting
6:15 PM Church Council Meeting
Saturday, September 23rd – 5 PM Worship w/ Holy Communion
Sunday, September 24th – 16th Sunday after Pentecost
9 AM Youth Faith Formation
and Coffee Fellowship Time (Library)
10:30 AM Worship w/ Holy Communion
11:45 AM Houston Mission Trip Meeting

World Hunger Project

click here for more information


Weekend Worship is at
5 p.m. on Saturdays
10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
Communion is celebrated at every service and a staffed nursery is available during the 10:30 worship

Youth Faith Formation
(Sunday School)
Every Sunday from
9:00 – 10:15 am

Christ the King Lutheran Church
1230 N. 18th St.
Escanaba, Michigan
Phone: 906-786-7400