Murder in God’s Name

stoningThe title of this post is an oxymoron. God’s law tells us, Thou shalt not murder. It is therefore impossible to commit the act of murder with the blessing of God. Yet, many thousands of people have claimed to do this very thing throughout our history. Now, some folks are just plain hypocrites; self-serving, only using the name of God when it is convenient for them, in an effort to further their own purpose. An example from the Bible would be the Pharisees, who Jesus openly called out for their hypocrisy. Matthew 7:22-23 assures us that Jesus will turn away those who attempt to call upon him after it is too late, who think they will be credited for using his name without having their hearts right with the Lord. Isaiah 29:13 sheds further insight into the folly of empty religious words. Let’s forget about hypocrites, because we their already know their M.O.

There are those who commit the act of murder in the name of God, who truly believe they are serving God in doing so. How can this be? How can terrorists who fly hijacked planes into buildings, intentionally killing thousands, think they are doing God’s will? How can a couple of kids who bomb the finish line of a marathon, killing children and maiming dozens, think they are performing a religiously righteous act? How can those who openly persecute Jews believe they are serving Christ in so doing, designating all people of Jewish decent as “Christ killers?”

The answer can be found in John’s Gospel, chapters 15 and 16. In John 15:4-6, Jesus tells his disciples to abide in him. Abiding is different than believing. Abide means to dwell in, to remain with, to bear with, to act in accordance with. All Christians are disciples of Christ. We must abide in him. Notice how Jesus describes us as a branch of his vine. A branch which abides in the vine bears good fruit. A branch that does not abide in the vine does not bear fruit, and its destination is the fire. Those who commit murder for religious purposes are not bearing good fruit, because they are not abiding in Christ.

In John 16:2-3, Jesus informs his disciples that some of them will be murdered by men who actually believe they are serving God in doing so. All of the apostles eventually died a martyr’s death (except, ironically, John, the author of this gospel). It is important to understand that those who do murder in the name of religion are not followers of Christ. Christ was rejected and persecuted by the religious leaders of his time. Islamic terrorists today do not acknowledge Jesus as anything more than a man, and do not believe he is the Son of God, or that he died on the cross for our sins.

Those who persecute Jews for being “Christ killers” are not followers of Christ, and do not regard the Bible as God’s Word. Christ taught love above all else, and the Bible tells us those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed. In John 10:18, Jesus confirmed that it was not the Jews who were going to kill him; they were incapable of such a thing. Ultimately, it was my sin and your sin which hung Jesus on that cross. Praise God that His Son freely chose to take our punishment upon himself, so you and I don’t have to!

There is a difference between murder and killing. Murder is an unjustified killing. The Bible does support the concept of capital punishment and the unfortunate necessity of war. Killing in either of those circumstances is state mandated and justified from a Biblical standpoint. Interestingly enough, the Israelis of Old Testament times did endorse the practice of revenge killings. They were even considered an obligation, to be carried out by a designated family member! It is apparent, however, that God did not endorse the practice, especially when the first killing was an accident – as He had them build cities of refuge in the Promised Land, where the innocent target of a revenge killer could receive legal sanctuary.

What about the atrocious killings done in the name of Christ by the church itself, all throughout the dark and middle ages? I offer no excuse for it. Church history was not always pretty. It is intertwined with man’s history, and as such, it is just as ugly at times. I can only conclude that the church was not abiding in Christ during such periods as the crusades and the inquisitions. The church did become horribly corrupt after it received political power from men, which is why the Protestant Reformation eventually took place.

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