How Christians Get Away with Murder (but not really)

Thou shalt not kill.

Most of us feel pretty safe around that verse – even in the King James Version.

In fact, we get downright smug about it in modern translations – “You shall not murder.”

Some of us take to boasting a little. “Hey, I’m a pretty good person. I’ve never murdered anyone.” Or “How can you say I’m a sinner? It’s not like I’ve murdered anybody.”

That’s setting the bar pretty low as a goodness standard, if you ask me, but we seem to find some comfort in clearing it. (Though, I don’t believe we do.)

Most of us agree to a certain comfort level with the idea of hell if we’re talking about murderers. That’s because we’re sure we don’t fit into that category of sinner. I say, we can’t actually afford such surety on the topic.


Because most of us are old hands at murder.

Some are up front about it but the majority, especially church folk, aren’t willing to be honest about our killing sprees. So, allow me to be the first to publicly admit that I have murdered many people in my lifetime. Not only that but I’ve covered it up with a righteous front.

It’s not something that I’m proud of but there it is.

Mark Twain describes these civilized stealth killings this way: “I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.”

Jesus described this type of murder in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5: 21-24

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Raca is an Aramaic term of contempt. Sort of like “You’re such a stupid jerk.”)

Jesus was persistent about expressing God’s desire that we not only uphold the law on the surface but allow His Spirit to penetrate as deep as our hearts and minds – which is where most murder actually happens.

I can’t imagine ever committing a physical murder (except in defense of one of my children) but there are people I’ve found ways to kill off from my life.

Sometimes I’ve killed them off through silence and isolation. They’ve injured me in some way, offended or hurt me, but I can’t be bothered to do the work of confrontation so I’ve simply shut them out of my life– physically, mentally, or emotionally. I haven’t said “You’re dead to me.” Because that would be dramatic and unsophisticated. I might even acknowledge them with a smile or a greeting on the street but only in the way one might notice a ghost or smile at a memory. In my heart, I buried our relationship shortly after I killed them off.

Sadly, in my younger days, I killed many with slander. Someone would hurt or offend me and so I sought my own revenge under the guise of telling my story of injury to seek the counsel of others (how many others does it take to get counsel?). I murdered their reputations, gunning them down in the eyes of others.

As I got older, I became better at slander, a subtle hit. I could accomplish the crime with a well-placed raised eyebrow, a rolling of the eyes, or a slight shake of the head. Fewer words, true, but really only tantamount to placing a silencer on my revolver or knifing them in the dark.

Harboring anger against another, hardening my heart, refusing to forgive an injury against myself or someone I love – these are all forms of execution and if I participate in them, I am guilty of murder. If I refuse to confess them and allow the Holy Spirit to lead me into forgiveness of others, then I am an unrepentant murderer.

Forgiveness is hard work – just ask God.

It isn’t about saying what the other person did doesn’t matter or that it was “no big deal” or that it was okay. It’s about saying that you relinquish your right to hold the offense against the other person and lay your right on God’s altar – allowing Him to be the judge in the end.

Jesus explained how crucial forgiveness is when He said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Perhaps like alcoholics, we need to form Murderers Anonymous in the church. Here we would admit that we have been killing off others and are powerless to stop on our own. Ask Him to give us strength. Take a fearless moral inventory of our offenses in this area. Make a list of all those we’ve killed in any way (with our tongues, with our minds, with our refusal to forgive) and seek to make reparations where we can.

I’m not suggesting we hold hands withthese people and sing Kum-Ba-Yah but at least we need to be honest before God about our role as killers and seek His power to cease and desist. Forgiveness is an ongoing practice and when we stop exercising it, like an unused muscle, it seizes up and paralyzes us spiritually, thus paralyzing the work of Christ in us and through us.

Are you trying to get away with murder? Stop. You’ve already been caught.
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  1. Sue says:

    I love this post! You hit the nail on the head with the true inner meaning of “Thou shall not kill.” Congratulations!

  2. gailcav says:

    I commend you for the courage and the honesty to admit what really goes on on the inside.The true Christian will avoid this type of behavior by following and abiding in Jesus. This takes having a personal relationship with him.