Murder and violent crime are rampant in this world. Is there any solution in sight? And what is the Christian's responsibility regarding God's Sixth Commandment?
Did you know that in the time it will take you to read this article, if you are an average reader, at least one American will be murdered — have his or her life snuffed out in a deliberate, cold-blooded act of violence? It's shocking, but true — a murder occurs every 23 minutes in the United States! In 1981 alone, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available at this writing, 22,516 homicides were committed in the United States. That's 9.8 murders for every 100,000 people, one of the highest rates in the world. And this, in a country that considers itself "Christian" — in a country that supposedly obeys God's Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13, Authorized Version). But the United States is not the only nation with a serious crime problem, including a spiraling increase in murders. In most of the world's industrialized nations, especially the more prosperous ones, violent crime is a major worry. The nations of Western Europe and the Mideast, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are all experiencing alarming crime rates. The United States' shocking murder statistics serve to illustrate the seriousness of the worldwide crime problem. America's cities, in particular, are afflicted with an epidemic of murders, pointing up the horrible results of breaking the Sixth Commandment. Says Houston Police Chief B. K. Johnson: "We have allowed ourselves to degenerate to the point where we're living like animals. We live behind burglar bars and throw a collection of door locks at night and set an alarm and lie down with a loaded shotgun beside the bed and then try to get some rest. It's ridiculous." Every single day, year after year, Americans are forced to hear and or read about a constant succession of grisly crimes: the Tylenol murders (in which poisoned capsules of a commercial pain reliever were swallowed by unsuspecting buyers), assassination attempts on our leaders - including the 1981 attempt to kill President Ronald Reagan, children slain by their parents or vice versa, the wanton murders of innocent children in Atlanta, Ga., the brutal slayings of police officers, gang murders, obscene rape-murders and macabre killings perpetrated just for "kicks." The rising tide of violent crime and cold-blooded murder has caused many Americans to put multiple locks or iron bars on their doors and windows and install alarm systems. Many acquire watchdogs, learn martial arts, form patrols or take lessons in the use of firearms or chemical sprays. Yet the fear of violent crime and murder remains all-pervasive.
The first human homicide
When and how did man become so violent? What is it that causes him to callously murder his fellow humans? And, most important of all, is there a way that man can overcome his murderous impulses, or is he doomed to destroy himself by committing nuclear cosmocide? Believe it or not, violent crime — murder! — began when mankind first appeared on earth. The Bible reveals that the Creator God made the first man and woman, Adam and his beautiful wife Eve, and put them upon this earth only about 6,000 years ago (Gen. 1:26-27). The all-wise Creator fully instructed this first man and woman in how to live successfully, prosperously, abundantly. But the first humans rebelled against the government of God and, as a result, were cut off from God's source of inspiration and knowledge — the Holy Spirit. They were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:22-24). Now they had to learn by trial and error — in the school of hard knocks — and make many mistakes in the process. Adam and Eve had children, and before long, envy and rivalry entered the heart of the eldest son, Cain. Cain resented his brother Abel and Abel's blessings and, ultimately, "Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him" (Gen. 4:8). This was the first human act of murder committed upon this earth. God saw it, and told the murderous Cain, "The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground" (verse 10). Cain had to reap from his deed much sorrow and tribulation, which he felt was quite overwhelming (verse 13). Soon Adam's descendants committed other murders, and a pattern began to be established (Gen. 6:5, 11-12). The Scriptures reveal that all nations, generally speaking, continued along the path of strife, violence, murder and war until the coming of Jesus Christ. This humble, God-fearing carpenter — God Himself, in the flesh — was Himself murdered by ignorant and violent fellow human beings during the reign of Pontius Pilate, in the first century.
The first murderer
It may come as a surprise to many students of the Bible to learn that Cain was not really the first murderer. He wasn't! But then who was? Just before He was murdered by evil men who thirsted for His blood, Jesus Christ told the hate-filled religious leaders of His day: "You seek to kill Me... You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He [the devil, or Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him" (John 8:37, 44). Satan the devil was the first murderer! He was created long before Adam and Eve were. In fact, it was Satan, in the form of a serpent, who slithered up to Eve and lied to her, tempting her to choose a way of life that would lead her and Adam to ultimate death (Gen. 3:1-24)! Most of mankind does not realize there is a literal and very active devil who constantly seeks to deceive and destroy mankind (Rev. 12:9). But there is a great, invisible, spirit-composed being who is cunning, deceitful, lying and murderous, always seeking to murder and destroy humans, who unwittingly give themselves over to his evil sway. For more information, write for a copy of our free booklet, Did God Create a Devil? Satan injects thoughts, Impulses, moods and attitudes into the minds of unsuspecting and willing humans, inciting people to murder, as when he inspired Judas to betray Christ, and as he also stirred up the Jews and the Romans to have a part in Christ's murder. Satan can stir up entire armies to kill and destroy (Rev. 9:1-11,13:7, 20:7-8).
Human nature and Satan's nature
Without what we call "human nature," there would be no crimes — no murders. But just what is human nature? [t is simply the attitude or spirit of Satan injected into gullible humanity. The attitudes of envy, hatred, jealousy, competition, strife, revenge and murder come not from God but from Satan. How can epidemics of violent crime and murder be prevented? Mankind, under Satan's invisible sway, has his own solutions. Man thinks he needs to put more policemen in uniform and to buy more police cars, more guns and various types of sophisticated equipment to enable him to cope with crime. He wants more penal institutions in which to house the burgeoning criminal population. But these options will not ultimately work, simply because they do not get at the real root of the problem. The root cause of crime is man's heart. Crime can't be stopped until man has a complete change of heart! Human nature must be totally changed. Few realize that God not only wants us to refrain from literally killing, but He wants His people to refrain from even harboring the spirit or attitude of murder. If murder is ever to be eradicated, mankind will have to learn to keep the spirit or intent of God's command, as well as the literal letter of the law. We must learn to replace hate with love — Satan's way of get with God's way of give. The Founder of Christianity taught us how to overcome the spirit of murder. He did not come to destroy the Ten Commandments, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). He did not come to abolish or do away with God's law, but to "magnify the law and make it honorable" (Isa. 42:21)! How? "You have heard that it was said to those of old," said Jesus, "'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. 5:21-22). Furthermore, said Jesus, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you... For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" (Matt. 5:43-48). Christ's magnification of the law took it far beyond the letter. Our keeping God's law now requires that we take on God's very character — that we think and act as God Himself would. Not only must we not murder, we must not even hate.
Christ's instruction to Christians
The Bible reveals that God gives lawfully constituted civil authorities the right to carry out capital punishment in certain instances (Gen. 9:5, Ex. 21:12-17, Deut. 7:1-2, Acts 25:10-11). These "governing authorities" do not bear the "sword in vain" (Rom. 13:1-4). But the New Testament teachings of Christ and His apostles make it clear that true Christian believers are not to be part of the secular governments of this world. Those who don't know the true God should be the executioners of the wicked. Here, then, is the New Testament teaching for true Christians: We are not to bear arms or use swords or guns to enforce Caesar's laws, avenge ourselves or punish evildoers. When the apostle Peter, with a sword, cut off the ear of a man, Christ rebuked him, saying, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matt. 26:52, John 18:10-11). To the Christian, Paul says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh" (II Cor. 10:3). Exodus 14:14 says, "The Lord will fight for you." The deceived billions on this earth "fight and war" but are unable to attain true peace (Jas. 4:1-2, KJV), because "the way of peace they have not known" (Rom. 3:17). But the true Christian "must not quarrel but be gentle to all" (II Tim. 2:24). He must set the proper example to the world. What about mercy killings (euthanasia), capital punishment, killing in self-defense, taking revenge, "just" wars, abortions (killing of unborn infants) and suicide? God, the giver of life (Gen. 2:7, Deut. 32:39), has the right to take any life if and when He chooses. But man does not have that power, unless God grants it to him. In numerous instances, God not only permitted His servants (prophets and civil leaders in the nation of Israel) to take life, but He actually commanded it under certain circumstances (I Sam. 15:3-33). Christians should never avenge themselves, but let God do it in His own time and way (Rom. 12:19). Are "mercy killings" permissible, since they are, supposedly, acts of mercy? No example in the Bible shows any people of God taking the life of another or their own, with God's approval, either in acts of euthanasia or suicide. God does not, however, say that we must give our loved ones drugs or oxygen or do all within our power, such as using various machines, to force them, contrary to nature, to live as long as possible, even when they are in great pain or totally unconscious. Though God permits capital punishment to be carried out by those duly authorized, it is wrong for those in authority to abuse this power. They should not use this power to kill the just, as Herod did in the case of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29). What about abortions? Using abortion as an alternative form of birth control is tantamount to the practice of the ancient Canaanites and others, who slew their infants in sacrifice to pagan gods such as Baal in the mistaken belief that their gods would bless them for doing so. What about suicide? God gives us life, and only He can legitimately take it from us. Is it wrong to take one's own life, thereby violating God's Sixth Commandment? It certainly is!
No more murder
This world does not know how to eradicate violent crimes such as rape and murder. But God not only knows how this can be done, He is going to do it, and tells us how, in biblical prophecy. After Jesus Christ returns, "He Himself will rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron" (Rev. 19:15). The nations will then learn of "His ways" and "walk in His paths": "He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.... And no one shall make them afraid" (Mic. 4:2-4). At that time the law of God will be paramount, and God's Word will be obeyed (verse 2). This will produce abundant peace. Once Satan, the first murderer, and his demons are bound and restrained for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3), it will be possible for mankind to receive the truth, knowledge and love of God. God will then write His laws in the minds and hearts of men (Heb. 8:8-11). Then and only then will men cease to struggle, compete, hate and murder. At last, we shall have total peace and safety when we learn to love, fear, obey and serve the great God, keeping His laws. Then there will be no more murder on this beautiful planet!