TO, Calif. (AP) – Three children, one a baby, were killed inside a California apartment by their father following a domestic violence altercation with his wife, authorities said Thursday. California Highway Patrol officers arrested Robert Hodges, 33, on Interstate 80 in neighboring Sacramento at around midnight Thursday, said West Sacramento police Sgt. Roger Kinney. The children were killed at the family’s apartment after 9 p.m. PDT Wednesday. Police and first responders tried life-saving measures on the children, but all three were pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not revealed how the children were killed. West Sacramento Police Sgt.
One American is murdered approximately every 30 minutes. No matter where you turn in our world, there are murders. Watch the news, read the newspaper or check the Internet and there it is splashed before our eyes. We not only learn about true life murder, we also see it glamorized on television and in movies. Murder is all around us, we can’t seem to get away from it, yet what we must understand is the fact that murder is not only a crime against one another, it is a crime against God.
It’s reported that by the time a child grows up in America, he or she will have viewed thousands of murders and acts of violence on television and in the movies. We even have the opportunity to act on that violence in video games. There is a game called “Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now,” in which drivers receive points for running over pedestrians, including the elderly. The game was banned in Brazil, because it produced road rage. There are loads of games which promote violence, death and destruction. Games like “Postal,” has players pretend to be deranged and delirious postal workers who get points for killing people. The promotion on the ad reads, “Listen to victims moan and beg for mercy, execute them if they get on your nerves.” (Tender Commandments, Ron Mehl, 152) There are newer games like Left 4 Dead and many others which promote violence, swearing and more.
The 6th Commandment
Then we hear this commandment by God “Thou shall not murder.” And our initial assumption is that this certainly doesn’t apply to me. I have never killed anyone, in fact, you may even have a difficult time killing those cute little lady bug looking beetles that venture into our homes.
We live in a world that appears to condone murder. We can ask, ‘why is there so much killing occurring in the world?’ Part of the problem is people do not believe in God, or they believe in a powerless and helpless God, so they seek to control every aspect of their existence and yours. Another problem is the vast unchecked and unhealed woundedness of the soul we carry around with us. Then there is another problem of the soul, one which can be referred to as a deadly virus.
The Deadly Virus
A deadly virus that is rampant in our society – the virus of anger, which leads to murder. If we delay one instant after the light changes, or cut someone off while driving, we can trigger vile language, a vulgar gesture, or even a gunshot. Sometimes we are afraid to beep our horn at someone, not knowing if their anger will lead to our destruction.
Judges are killed in Colombia because they are an economic impediment to the drug lords of that country. A black teenager trying to buy a used car in New York was killed because he had wandered into a neighborhood of angry whites. If a line is too long or a checker seems too slow or there is a bad call in a game – the result may be outbursts of anger. We see the anger glamorized in professional sports arguments, and they work their way down to kids sports, as well.
Resentments, grudges and bitterness are common companions wherever we go, especially in homes. And this leads to anger, violence, and abuse. When it comes to violence and killing, our society seems to shrug and say, ‘that’s just the way it is.’
I don’t plan to spend a great deal of time on what we might call some of the obvious forms of murder.
What is Murder?
Most, if not all of us, can breathe easy for we are distant from such events. Of course, we assume terrible hate crimes will not find their way to your town. We may think ‘this is all terrible, but it doesn’t apply to me. I have never murdered anyone, so let’s move on.’ But before you check out on me, I want to remind you of what this commandment also includes. It includes the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22. Listen to the way Jesus adds to this sixth commandment:
21You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ’Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’
22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ’Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ’You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
The word “raca” means worthless, good for nothing, or empty-headed. When we begin to call people empty-headed, worthless and fools, we are writing them off. We are vilifying them, stating they have no value. And if we take it to a further extreme, when we say someone has no value, and if we call them a “FOOL” then what we’re really saying is, ‘this person really does not deserve to be alive. I don’t want anything to do with them and as far as I am concerned, they are dead.’ You see, this is how Jesus defined this phrase. So, according to Jesus, this is murder in the heart.
Words, Words, Words!
Jesus is helping us recognize our words, which so easily fly out of our mouths, often without cause, justified by our own woundedness, when we’re angry, causes tremendous damage to others. When we speak in anger, we speak like fools, and we too are subject to God’s judgment. It isn’t that we can’t become angry, it’s our approach to being angry. It’s what we do with our anger once it arrives . . . and know that it will arrive.
We’ve heard many stories about people who’ve become angry at another, so angry that they pick up a gun or a knife and kill that person. But in the Sermon on the Mount, we learn about another form of murder, murder that is acceptable to most of our society. It is murder when we use our words to defeat another person, when we attempt to make them feel so small that their self worth, their soul, gets murdered.
You know who those people are. In school, they are the ones picked on by the other kids, just because they are different, not as secure about themselves.
There is the story of an elementary school teacher that happened many years ago. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. She looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was not true, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other kids, and his clothes were messy. Teddy was unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big ‘F’ at the top of his papers.
Mrs. Thompson’s Evil Heart
As she reviewed each child’s records, she put Teddy’s off until last. When she reviewed his file, Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners, he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”
Mrs. Thompson Repents
Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and was ashamed of herself. At Christmas, the children brought beautifully wrapped presents, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in a heavy, brown paper bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she excitedly said how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.
Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.”
Mrs. Thompson Cries
After the children left she cried for Teddy and quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. As Mrs. Thompson worked with Teddy, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class.
Eventually, Teddy graduated high school and became a doctor, having Mrs. Thompson sit in the place reserved for the groom’s mother at his wedding. Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson whispered back, “Teddy, you were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”
Look At Yourself
How many people have we ignored or considered fools because they were different than we are? Maybe they were not as coordinated or athletic, as good looking or smart, so we shun them to the status of . . . fool.
We make them feel as small as we can by the way in which we use our words and actions. Those people who appear to be empty-headed fools have attributes we very well may not have. But we don’t look for the good within them, we don’t take the time to get to know them, instead we discard them as if they were a piece of garbage. When we do that, we are committing Biblical murder. Jesus tells us these people are trampled and ground into the dirt, they are breathing, but not living. Maybe that kind of murder hits awfully close to home. People, precious people, valuable people, people made in the image of God . . . people made for life, not for death are easily and carelessly murdered.
John Calvin wrote about this in the “Institutes of the Christian Religion” in 1536. As he discussed this commandment, he wrote, “We are accordingly commanded, if we find anything of use to us in saving our neighbors’ lives, faithfully to employ it; if there is anything that makes for their peace, to see to it; if anything harmful, to ward it off; if they are in any danger, to lend a helping hand.” In other words, we are to look after our neighbor, because when we do not, we are committing murder. Murder of the soul is something we often cannot detect from outward appearances, yet murdering someone’s soul renders them lifeless.
Jesus said those who speak with viciousness and anger are lawbreakers. We may never physically injure someone, yet we take a life by tearing the individual apart with our tongue. When we do this, we’re guilty of breaking the 6th commandment.
We Commit Murder Too
We often commit this type of murder to those who are closest to us, our families and friends. We do it passive aggressively by just ignoring one another, and we do it in the church world. Shame on us. We do it to one another when we know the precise word that will hurt the most. Isn’t it true that we can yell and scream at our family members, break them down to where they are afraid to think, and then when they don’t do a simple task, because of fear of rejection, we destroy them with more angry insults. These words are in direct violation of the commandment. Do not commit murder by tearing at someone by angry and violent speech.
There is appropriate and inappropriate anger. God became angry with Israel because of their disobedience. Jesus became angry with the Pharisees and with those who bought and sold in the Temple. I feel anger at people who kill. I feel anger at injustices in our world. Jesus is not forbidding anger. We can feel anger about many things in life. Jesus is addressing the kind of anger in which we seek revenge and want a person to pay for what he or she did to us.
What We Do
When we plot to destroy someone who has hurt us, when we devise schemes to ensure someone will fail because we are angry at them, these are inappropriate ways to display anger. When we are yelling and screaming, slamming doors and punching walls, those are not ways God wants us to deal with our anger. Paul reminds us that we never need to take revenge when we have been hurt because, God said “Beloved, never avenge yourselves…for it is written. Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12:19)
Jesus warns that harboring this kind of anger is a dangerous sin, on par with murder! I have found from personal experience this warning from Jesus is absolutely right. If I could live my life over again, at the top of my list of things I would do differently, I would control anger.
Even though we live in an angry society, we still have the responsibility to model Christ’s love. We accomplish this through the Holy Spirit when we express anger for the right reasons, in the right way, to the right people, at the right time. This kind of self control is desperately needed in our homes and in our world.
How Do We Control It?
How do we control anger? Scripture gives some examples for expressing anger in loving ways. One step for controlling our anger is to delay our response, rather than speaking without thinking. Proverbs tells us:
Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding, but the person who has a quick temper stockpiles stupidity. 14:29
Hot tempers start fights, a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace. 15:18
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person remains under control. 29:11
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:26-27 – “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” In other words, you can be angry, but do not allow the day to end with anger still on your heart and revenge running through your mind. Because when you do this you are now making room for satan to take hold of your life, and lead to things that you may never have done before.
Let Me Ask You This
Let’s stop here for a moment as we come to the end of this article. I want us to reflect on some questions.
● Have I murdered anybody by my words?
● Have I allowed my actions or words to be filled with contempt or
malice toward a family member, neighbor or friend?
● Have I arrogantly shown contempt for others . . . on the
highway, in the store, at home or at work?
● Have I struggled to love someone who is not loving back?
● Have I held this struggle up in the light of the cross?
How do we insulate ourselves against breaking this commandment? The solution is simple. All we need do is practice God’s plan for unconditional love and absolute forgiveness of others.
As a follower of Jesus, we have supernatural power to help us with our anger, and how we express it . . . most especially so we won’t say or do things which injure another’s heart or soul. Paul writes that the Holy Spirit can help us through the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – Meditate on some of these the next time you become angry –
LOVE – PEACE – JOY – PATIENCE – KINDNESS – GENTLENESS – GOODNESS – FAITHFULNESS – SELF-CONTROL
When we become angry we need to consider the ramifications before we speak, not after we speak. My daily prayer is that I can exhibit these fruits. We all have them; however, most of us choose not to utilize them.
The 6th commandment states, “Thou shall not murder.” We ignore it because it appears meaningless to us, yet we must consider the deeper meaning of this commandment. Many people may have hurt us, we have all been wounded to one extent or another, but when we commit Biblical murder, murder of the soul, we are no better than those who have hurt us. I pray that we can embrace the fruits of the Spirit and find a spirit of love in our hearts.
Murder is more than an act of the flesh, it is an attitude of the heart.
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