The Sixth Commandment and Reconciliation

The Sixth Commandment in the Gospels

4 min

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Giver of life. The Gospel of John tells us “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4).

Jesus gave us life in creation, and He also gives us life in redemption. He told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). 

It should not surprise us that in His earthly ministry, Jesus was the Restorer of life. Death could not stand in His life-giving presence. He touched the coffin of the young man at the village of Nain, and the dead corpse sat up (Luke 7:14–15). He took the lifeless hand of a young girl in Capernaum and said, “Talitha cumi” and the closed eyes fluttered open to behold the face of Jesus (Mark 5:41–42). He stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth”—and he did (John 11:43–44)! At Calvary, Jesus destroyed our last enemy, death, by His Own death and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20–28).

As the upholder of the sixth commandment (“Thou shalt not kill”), Jesus not only resists murder. He also promotes, defends, and maintains life. He calls broken and dying men and women to reconciliation, to love, to hope, to forgiveness, and to new life in Him. This is the full and glorious purpose of the sixth commandment.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Jewish teachers for the limited, shallow way that they interpreted the sixth commandment. “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).

Jesus calls His disciples not only to avoid murder, but also to avoid pride, anger, contempt, and bitterness. These root attitudes are murderous and deadly at heart. To harbor a spirit of anger toward a brother is to commit murder in the heart. Raca is an Aramaic word that means “empty” and was a term of abasement whereby a man openly scorned his brother. It would be akin to calling someone “stupid.” To go a step farther and call a man a “fool,” a term of contempt that not only scorned a man’s mind and knowledge but also his heart and character, was to reject our brother for who he actually is—a brother made in the image of God.

Instead, Jesus calls us as His disciples to learn to be men of reconciliation. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23–24).

Jesus teaches us the proper way to handle offenses. Instead of reacting in anger and scorn that come from a heart of pride, we are to seek reconciliation with a spirit of humility. If anger brings death, then reconciliation brings new life. Jesus came to earth for the express purpose of reconciling man to God (II Corinthians 5:17–19). Humility was required to bring about this reconciliation (Philippians 2:5–8). It took a willingness to pay the price for reconciliation; in this case, the restitution required was the precious blood of Christ Himself (I Peter 1:18–19).

If we as Christ’s disciples want to uphold the sixth commandment in its fullest sense, we will also learn to become ministers of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18). We will learn to be reconciled to our brother, whether we have committed an offense or, on the other hand, have been the one offended. We will urge men and women around us to be reconciled to God (I Corinthians 5:20). 

In order for this life-giving reconciliation to be possible, a transformation must occur in our hearts. Hatred must be replaced by love. Pride must be replaced by humility. Anger must be replaced by kindness. This exchange can only be accomplished by God’s Holy Spirit as we yield our lives and surrender our hearts to be transformed into the image and character of Christ.

May each one of us learn to be life-givers like our Master. Let us cultivate a spirit of humility which, in our case, acknowledges when we are wrong. Like Jesus, let us learn to forgive offenses against us even as Jesus prayed for His offenders while He was on the cross (Luke 23:34). Let us learn to lay aside “all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking” (Ephesians 4:31) and instead to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

On Thursday, we will examine the life of one of Jesus’ disciples. This particular disciple was transformed from a man of pride to a man of humility, changed from a man who sought to kill to a man who sought to reconcile, and converted from a man with a heart of anger to a man with a heart of kindness. We can be encouraged that God has given us, as the disciples of Jesus, the power of His Holy Spirit so that this same transformation can take place in our own hearts.

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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