Catechism lesson 36: Respect for human life (LD 40)

Because all humans are created in the image of God, we must respect them and protect their life as much as our own.

LD 40 q&a 105.

What does God require in the sixth commandment?

I am not to dishonour, hate, injure, or kill my neighbour
by thoughts, words, or gestures,
and much less by deeds,
whether personally or through another;

rather, I am to put away all desire of revenge.

Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself.

Therefore, also, the government bears the sword
to prevent murder.

LD 40 q&a 106.

But does this commandment speak only of killing?

By forbidding murder God teaches us
that he hates the root of murder,
such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge,
and that he regards all these as murder.

LD 40 q&a 107.

Is it enough, then, that we do not kill our neighbour in any such way?

No.

When God condemns envy, hatred, and anger,
he commands us
to love our neighbour as ourselves,
to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him,
to protect him from harm as much as we can,
and to do good even to our enemies.

The sixth commandment says: “You shall not murder.” But murder and killing are only the obvious tip of the iceberg. Jesus clearly pointed out that the commandment goes much deeper.

Read Matthew 5:21-24. What other sixth-commandment violations does Jesus mention in v. 22? What does Jesus teach us to do in v. 23-24? How important is this?

God’s image

Human beings have a unique dignity, or worth, that makes it wrong to harm them. This is because of our special place in creation. Gen. 1:26-27 tell us that we were created in the image and likeness of God. Every person around you has something God-like in him or her; just like you, he or she has the special task to take care of God’s world.

Look up Gen. 9:5-6. What is the just penalty for killing another human being? Why?

When we have hateful thoughts for other people, treat them in a mean way, or speak to them harshly, it is disrespect of the image of God that they bear. Sadly, Christians too often think that they can combine praising God and hating people!

The Bible addresses this problem in James 3:9-12. What examples does James use to show how unfitting it is?

“Love your enemies”

The Israelites were familiar with the rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18) From the context in Lev. 19 it is clear that God here means is the opposite of “seeking revenge” or “bearing a grudge.” But it is easy to escape this rule by pretending that people you’re angry at are not really your “neighbour”. That is why Jesus, as it were, upgraded the rule and instructed his disciples: “Love your enemies.”

Read Mat. 5:43-48. How does God treat his enemies? If we are really children of God, how should we behave?

When the sixth commandment say: “You shall not murder,” it points at the most obvious, outrageous, negative aspect. Jesus taught us to look at the subtle ways in which we “kill”, as it were; and he taught us to work on the positive side. Protecting others, even those we don’t like. Praying for others, even if they have hurt us. Patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, friendliness. That is a tall order.

If you find it difficult to show patience or gentleness or compassion to someone who has hurt you, what would be a good thing to remember?

Even people with an easy-going personality tend to hate and resent those who offend them. Patience, peace, and so on, do not come to us naturally! Where do they come from? (See Gal. 5:22-23.)

Discussion

  1. Is it ever right to be angry at another person?
  2. Psalm 139:21 says: “Do I not hate those who hat you, LORD?” Does this mean that we may hate other people?
  3. If someone has hurt you badly, is it fair when he gets away with it? Shouldn’t there be justice? (See Rom. 12:19)
  4. Some Christians are pacifists and reject all forms of violence, such as fighting for their country. When the government calls them to war, they become conscientious objectors. What do you think of that?
  5. The Heidelberg Catechism (q&a 105) points out that harming yourself is sin against the sixth commandment. Do you agree? Should we speak negatively about someone who takes his or her own life in a very difficult situation?

Homework

All: Memorize q&a 107.

Older students: Also memorize q&a 105.

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