This week we come to Question 11 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 1 (questions 1-20), which focuses on God, creation and the fall, and the law.
Question 11: What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?
Answer: Sixth, that we do not hurt, or hate, or be hostile to our neighbor, but be patient and peaceful, pursuing even our enemies with love. Seventh, that we abstain from sexual immorality and live purely and faithfully, whether in marriage or in single life, avoiding all impure actions, looks, words, thoughts, or desires, and whatever might lead to them. Eighth, that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else, nor withhold any good from someone we might benefit.
The sixth commandment forbids murder (Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). This prohibition is based on the dignity of human beings as made in the image of God (Gen. 9:6). To assault or destroy human life without biblical warrant is an attempted assault on God himself, for it represents the devaluing of the creatures he made to represent himself. This command applies not only to obvious example of murder, but also those that are less obvious to modern people, including abortion and euthanasia.
The catechism teaches us not only to avoid murdering others, but instead to pursue with patience the good of others, even including our enemies. Jesus taught us to live this way in the Sermon on the Mount, where he pressed beyond the bare commandment and pointed at the heart issue that lies behind the murderous impulse (Matt. 5:21-26). Furthermore, he commanded us not only to avoid seeking retaliation against those who wrong us (Matt. 5:38-42), but even to love them, pray for them, and seek their good (Matt. 5:43-47). There is no higher ethic than love for our enemies, for when we love them and pray for their good, we most imitate God who loved us when we were his enemies (Rom. 5:6-11).
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Matthew 5:21-26; 38-47. What does Jesus teach us about anger here? What does he teach us about retaliating against others? What does it look like to love our enemies?