You shall not murder

The Image of God in Humanity and in Jesus Christ

I am quite enamored with the commandment to not murder another human being. That may sound strange. But this commandment gets to the heart of my theology of redemption.

I find it interesting that the commandment not to kill is not until number six in the Ten Commandments. I think it would be the first that we humans would probably write ourselves. It is probably one of the only ones people “on the street” could name. So, if it’s that important, then why isn’t it the first listed?

We first hear a lot of commandments about God. The ancient rabbis believed the Ten Commandments were on two tablets. The first five were about having right relationship with God, the second half were about having right relationship with human beings (they saw the "honoring of parents" as an extension of honoring God).
1. God. 2. God. 3. God. 4. God. 5. God.

God comes first. We humans need to understand that before we have a proper understanding of the value of humanity, we must have a proper understanding of the value of God. We have value because God has bestowed upon us our value - We alone bear his image.

I see humans sometimes belittle human life (via abortion, war, greed and power games that cause poverty and disease, inequities in the justice system, etc.). I think it’s because we don’t know how incredible each human being’s life is; we don’t grasp the glory found in each human being because of the imago Dei found in each.

I see humans struggle to understand why human life is more valuable than animal life. They intrinsically understand that all creatures of God have dignity and need to be protected by us. But some make the mistake of equating animal life with human life. Again, I think it’s because we don’t grasp the glory found in each human being created in the imago Dei – and given the mandate to “have dominion” and “care for” the creation. God loves all his creatures, so much so that he has put humanity in charge of them all (maybe it seems like a bad plan, but that’s only because of the Fall. Without sin, humanity would not exploit his environment and God’s creatures like we do now).

God created all human beings in his image. This means that each and every human life is sacred. I choose that word on purpose. Sacred. Each human life is sacred because each has the breath of divinity. This is why we must not kill other human beings. This is, according to Jesus, why we must not even harbor anger toward our brothers and sisters. This is why we must not think low thoughts of others, calling them demeaning names. This is why reconciliation is so important to the Christian life (see Matthew 5:22-24).

Christ is the perfect image of God. He fulfills, in his humanity, the mandate we human beings are meant to have in carrying the imago Dei. He is our redemption because he is the way to recreating the imago Dei in each of us.

You shall not murder God's image.

This is another way to see why killing Jesus Christ on the cross was so key to redemption.

Do not murder. Why? Because God has created each human in the His image.

Jesus comes as that image renewed. Jesus comes to both fulfill our mandate so that we can do so, and to take on the worst that our evil can dish out so that that evil can be exhausted.

We humans kill him. And, in the grace of God, it is through that murder that our image bearing capability in restored.

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Ted Gossard said...

I don't think I've seen that slant at it before.

I see Christian pacifism or nonresistance close to the heart of the good news that Jesus brought and lived out for us, especially so on the cross. As I get at a bit today on my blog.

joe said...

in light of this. how do we reconcile the old testament to this issue of murder. i have been trying to figure out how it works in light of the teachings of christ.

Bob Robinson said...

What do you see needing reconciliation between the OT and the NT concerning murder? I'm trying to understand what you're trying to figure out. Thanks.

joe said...

sorry bob. i am struggling to justify or reconcile or whatever the word is, the amount of killing in the OT, some of which seemed ok by if not ordered by god.

i know not every war was ordered by god. i know not every war was even won by the sword, but there was still alot of what seemed to be "sanctioned bloodshed".

what is the answer to that? i am a nonresistant person myself, but i am trying to wrestle through the OT. any advice?

Bob Robinson said...

On the issue of war, the OT, it seems to me, is DEscriptive more than it is PREscriptive.

God ordered Israel to war, and that describes God's ordained judgment on those nations (watch how often God tells Israel that they should do so because of the evil of those other nations). God also ordains that other nations take out Israel when she is guilty of doing evil. All this is DEscriptive of God's dealings in that era.

With Jesus, those DEscriptions become PREscriptions. In the time since Jesus, our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces at work behind the scenes. We follow the way of the Lord in subverting these powers by way of sacrifice - battling for justice and shalom through the work of peacemaking and meekness.

It's a difficult nuance to understand - it is not straightforward. But simply put (too simply put), I see the New Israel (the Church) fulfilling the Old Israel's life in spiritual ways. The spiritual fulfillment is the reality that the OT pointed toward.