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Kill, kill, kill

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be deserving of condemnation.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be deserving of condemnation; whoever insults his brother will be deserving of the court; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be deserving of the valley of weeping of fire…..” Matthew 5: 21-23

Killing is news. Killing is every day – many times a day.

Here are a few reminders –
• “Jihadi John” – Mohammed Emwazi, the British executioner.
• In Moscow last week, politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered
• In London last week, 15-year-old cyclist Alan Cartwright was murdered and his bike stolen
• In 1994 in Rwanda, 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus were killed in 100 days.
• In Syria, 200,000 Syrians have been killed in the past few years
• Amongst Muslims, Shias, Sunnis and others are now killing one another.

Will you kill? If a British war erupts via the Ukraine will you enlist so as to kill? Will you volunteer to kill the followers of IS?

Are you thinking to yourself, “Thank heaven I won’t be asked to do anything like that”? Don’t be too sure.....

Did the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who, along with Jewish people, were killed in Paris a few weeks ago fit into the words in bold above? Please look closely at those words. Were they angry with a brother? Did they insult a brother? Did they say “You fool!” to another?

None of us knows their answers to those questions because we are not them.
‘Killing is unnatural. But, in fact, all death is unnatural.’ (Anon.)

But we do know what is in our own hearts. Am I angry with Jihadi John? If so, Jesus said that I’m deserving of condemnation like a killer. Would I insult a militant Muslim if I met him? If so, Jesus said that in his day I’d then be deserving of the court. Do I ever say, “You fool!” to anyone? If so, Jesus said that I will be deserving of unspecified but disastrous consequences – “the valley of weeping of fire”.

This is all very searching. But there’s something which you may have missed within the words in bold above – despite the fact that the important words are not only underlined there but also repeated four times. It’s the words “will be deserving of”.

The old commandment to which Jesus referred did not say “whoever kills will be condemned.” Jesus did not say, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be condemned.” Nor did he say that “whoever insults another will go to court.” He did not say that “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will go to that awful and indescribable place.”

‘What men fear is not that death is annihilation but that it isn’t.’ (Epicurus, Greek philosopher, 371-270 BC)

Why did he not say that those four things were inevitable? Is it not inevitable that, if I kill, I have to be condemned? Not according to Jesus.

In the dark early hours of the first Good Friday, Jesus faced people who were angry with him. Here is how Matthew describes the scene. He is on trial before the court – the court mentioned in bold above. The chief priests and the whole court were seeking false testimony against him so that they might kill him, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward……

Jesus remained silent…. The high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He is deserving of death.”

So… Those who were so angry with this good man decided that he was deserving of condemnation. They had him killed. But he had pre-arranged that - so that he could forgive those who really were deserving of condemnation.

The high priest, the chief priests and the whole court achieved a remarkable reversal of justice. But Jesus himself reversed that reversal – so as to provide a way back to God. Those who kill – who today are deserving of condemnation need not – ever – receive it.

Richard Syvret

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