You shall not kill.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God, so that we do no bodily harm to our neighbor, but help and befriend him in every need.
God has given us the fifth commandment so that all human life would be protected, built up and supported by others. In this commandment we learn how we are to live life among our neighbors and learn how we are to conduct ourselves toward fellow human beings.
In the meaning to the commandment Luther points out that to kill means to do bodily harm. Any infliction of pain that we purposely commit against our neighbor is considered murder. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer (1 John 3:15). One cannot even claim that he is teaching his neighbor a lesson, because God has given the power to punish wrongdoers to the government. It is not the prerogative of an individual to get back at his enemies. Anger, reproof, and punishment are the prerogatives of God and His representatives, and they are to be exercised upon those who transgress.
All to often, the spirit of revenge clings to each one of us. None of us willing suffers injury from another, which is why God would keep this commandment before us at all times. Revenge is often easy to see in our children. They fight back and retaliate when things do not go their way. The longer we harbor hatred the harder it is to be rid of it. Hatred clings to us. But God reminds us that it should not be so.
This commandment also requires us to be proactive like a sports team on offense, so that we help those who are in need. If we fail to do good to our neighbor when we have opportunity, or if we fail to prevent, protect, or save him from suffering bodily harm or injury. “If you send the naked away without clothes, you have let him freeze to death. If you see anyone suffer hunger and do not feed him, you have let him starve.” Anytime we fail to befriend someone in need, we have contributed to his death whether we directly caused it or not. God rightly calls all persons murderers who do not offer counsel and aid to those in need and in peril of body and life.
As we look into the mirror of the 5th commandment, we lose heart because we have neglected those in need, harbored hatred against our enemies, and loved ourselves more than others. For all of this we should be truly sorry and seek to amend our sinful ways, since the love of Christ compels us.
All of our sins have been punished in Christ. He loved his enemies, even to the point of death. We were his enemies and he willingly died for us. “For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; the righteous for the unrighteous.” No sin has been left for us to suffer punishment on our own, even our weakness and inability to protect our neighbor’s lives as we ought. Christ has paid for all of them and has held nothing against us.
Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. When we pray the Lord’s prayer we ask God to be gracious unto us and for Him to cause us to be gracious unto others so that even though neither we nor they are worthy of forgiveness we forgive as we have already been forgiven.May God grant us His grace to live according to His Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.