Since we will gather for worship and partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Cor. 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
We do so this week on the basis of God’s commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13
When we examine ourselves on the basis of this commandment, we might assume we have kept it if we have not actually taken the life of another human being, but this commandment encompasses so much more.
Luther explains the meaning of this commandment in his Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.”
Thus, we are guilty and condemned by this commandment of the LORD God not only if we have killed someone; we are guilty if we have done anything to cause hurt or harm to our neighbor and if we have failed to do all in our power to help and befriend our neighbors in all their bodily needs.
Jesus said in His sermon on the mount: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).
1 John 3:15 says: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
Again, when we examine ourselves in the light of this commandment of God, we see our utter failures. We have had evil thoughts toward others, even wishing we could do them harm. We have hated others and been angry at others without just cause. We have called people names and said hurtful things about others.
And, have we ever turned away from one who is truly in need or neglected to do all in our power to defend our neighbor’s life and wellbeing? Have we done all in our power to defend the lives of the unborn and the old and feeble?
Jesus also said (Matthew 5:43-45): “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
We remember that Christ Jesus kept this commandment perfectly in our stead, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and even raising the dead. And He went to the cross to suffer and die and bear the just punishment for your sins and my sins against His commandments. As Bible says in Romans 5:6-8, Jesus gave His life and died for those (including us) who were still His enemies and living in sin and disobedience to God: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you have sinned? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment? Do you believe God’s commandment is good and right but you are wrong, a sinner deserving of the torments of hell?
The Bible says: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10).
But the Bible also tells us that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? That He fulfilled the law’s righteous demands and then took your sins upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and suffered your just punishment when He died upon the cross? Do you believe that Christ paid for your sins when he died upon the cross and that he rose again in victory?
Do you also believe Jesus gives you to partake of His sacrifice for the sins of the world in the Sacrament – that He gives you His body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins?
As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word, to defend and preserve life and to love your neighbor as God has loved you?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]