Tuesday, July 7, 2009

7/8- Murder in Gaffney

(Cain and Abel- Titian 1542-44 during Calvin's life)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

7/8- Murder in Gaffney (posted on Tuesday for Wednesday)

21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, [a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister [b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca, [c]' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:21-24)

Calvin: Scripture notes that this commandment rests upon a twofold basis: man is both the image of God, and our flesh.He who has merely refrained from shedding blood has not therefore avoided the crime of murder. If you perpetrate anything by deed, if you plot anything by attempt, if you wish or plan anything contrary to the safety of a neighbor, you are considered guilty of murder. Again, unless you endeavor to look out for his safety according to your ability and opportunity, you are violating the law with a like heinousness. But if there is so much concern for the safety of his body, from this we may infer how much zeal and effort we owe the safety of the soul, which far excels the body in the Lord’s sight. (II.8.40)

For Calvin two things ruled supreme. People are valuable because they are made in the image of God. This image may be tarnished, but it is nonetheless there. God made us- with eternal souls, and therefore we have value. Second humans should not kill their own kind- their own “flesh.” It is similar, in Calvin’s mind to the evil of cannibalism. The third value he speaks of later is that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. People are valuable because God loves them and commands us to do the same. The prime example of that value is that Christ came down to the world for us. He calls all people to be saved (though not all respond). For Calvin (and for Jesus- Mt. 5), of course, not physically killing someone is not all there is to this idea of forbidding murder. We must, on the positive side, take it upon ourselves to care for the safety of others, and their welfare. We also are called to forgive our neighbor which is a stay against bitterness and hate.
It is clear to me that we have somehow lost these values today in our culture. In the former communist USSR and China many were killed if they disagreed with the government. It is an estimate of about 100 million between both countries. The same could be said for Cambodia’s Pol Pot. This is because there was adamant belief against God, and in God’s place became society and country. When people spoke against the state or the leader it was not only treason but blasphemy. The gang murders in our country are there in part because they have lost the idea that people are valuable- the gang alone is valuable. In Gaffney this past week- (Gaffney, South Carolina of all places!) there was a serial killer. No area is immune from sin. I do not doubt that this killer's faith had little value to him as well. Somehow we need to get back to the idea that human beings are valuable in and of themselves. Another sign of this lack of value in our society are those who are saying that other animals or plants are more valuable to human beings. I have heard things like “human beings are the parasites of society who destroy everything.” God calls us to be good stewards of the earth and care for it. He placed us in the garden and told us to care for it. We have failed. But the opposite extreme is to value plants or animals more than human beings.

Prayer: This day, Lord, help me to love my neighbor as myself. Open my eyes that I might make use of an opportunity to show concern for another. At the same time, Lord, protect our world from the evil of murder.

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