Continued from “What does the Sixth Commandment Mean for us?”
I’m looking at one of the sermons that came out of Mars Hill Church a couple of months ago: Is God A Pacifist? People, even popular pastors, speak only their opinion: not the words of God.
It happens that Jesus actually does address the Sixth commandment, but Mr. Driscoll does not make the connection. At first I’d thought he’d simply not noticed it: but then I found the reference in his notes. He saw it as simply a proof of his correct usage of a word. But in context, Jesus explains much more about the principles that lie behind the Sixth commandment than expected. We are not just to avoid murder, by Mr. Driscoll’s precise definitions. Jesus explains that the principles go far beyond that.
The full reference, from Matt 5:21-22, follows: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
So: yes, the gospel (in it’s original Greek) does back up the use of the word “murder” (in Hebrew). But it then goes much further. No, we should not commit murder. But, using the same principle, we should not be angry at people. We should not even be calling them names. “[We] are not merely to refrain from killing, but are to resist the temptation to become angry (vv. 21–22). [We] are to reconcile [our]selves with [our] accusers (vv. 23–26) and not resist those who are evil (vv. 39–42).” (HTS Theological Studies, retrieved 2014). My pacifism helps keep my anger in check. Perhaps you can get violent, Mark, and even kill someone (a non-murder, “justified” killing) whom you’re not mad at. I’m not able to do that, and I don’t think many are. From what I’ve read about you and your ministry, you’ve admitted your difficulties with such emotions and claimed (recently) that “my angry-young-prophet days are over” (Megan Seiling, The Stranger, 2014). The verses in Matthew were not intended to give license to kill (outside of murder) but to assist in keeping all such negative outbursts in line.
As I said in the first post on this subject, whether or not God is a pacifist (and I don’t believe He is) has little bearing on my relationships or how I identify myself (Bowles, The Geographer’s Corner, 2014). But whether or not Jesus taught pacifism has lots of bearing on my daily life. Between this and his instruction to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39) and “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44), I see a lot of examples of non-violence. Jesus may not have been the perfect pacifist, but he encouraged us to go a long way long the road.