Indifference to murder

We’ve established from scripture that God is angry when we, as humans, shed innocent blood. So, the intentional taking of innocent human life, or what we would traditionally refer to as murder, rightly invokes the wrath and judgment of a holy God who created, values, and protects life. The shedding of innocent blood is a defiance, if you will, of God’s direct negative law, or what we would consider a prohibitive law, against murder.

God states in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.” If we break that law, we incur the wrath of God. How does God feel about those who do not commit murder, yet are indifferent to the shedding of innocent blood by passively allowing it to happen or by tacitly approving of murder by saying, “That has nothing to do with me. I am not committing murder, so I am not guilty, and God won’t hold me responsible?” How does God feel when we fail to protect innocent human life by means of intervention? When life is on the line, how does God feel when we approve of murder by saying, “This is not my problem”?

Here’s a real-world, theoretical example: If I were to be a vocal opponent of violent knife stabbings and campaigned against knife violence, how would God feel about me if I were to come upon you being attacked at knife point and do nothing about it? If I were to say, “Since I am not guilty of knifing this person, I am not responsible. I have nothing to do with it, and no one can hold me responsible for this knifing. I am innocent.” How would you feel if I were to do that to you?

Civic morality or just what we would think of as social responsibility would prompt even people without a view of the Bible to come together and say that my inaction in such a circumstance would be tantamount to complicity. In other words, if I were to do nothing, I could be held guilty for the shedding of innocent blood. If that seems a little unclear as to whether people truly think that way, let me clarify: Those who murder and those who are indifferent to murder are equally guilty of breaking God’s law because God’s law does not only say, “Do not murder,” but it goes further to say, “Love your neighbor.” If we do not murder, that’s good. But if we fail to intervene when life is on the line, then we have failed to obey the rest of the law, which is God’s command to love your neighbor.

Let me give you a couple of biblical examples and principles to consider that relate to this. Number one, we know that to directly violate God’s law is sin, but the book of James says that to those who know the good that they ought to do and don’t do it, to them, that is also sin. This is commonly referred to as the dichotomy of sins of commission versus sins of omission. If we commit a sin intentionally, then we sin. If we omit the good that God has instructed us to do, then we also sin by doing nothing by the sin of omission.

Deuteronomy 22 states that if you’re building a new house and you need to build a fence or a parapet around the roof of your house to prevent accidents, and you fail to do so, God would hold you responsible for not taking preventive measures to protect those who might fall off the roof. Jesus also said in the New Testament that if you look at a woman lustfully, then you’ve committed adultery with her in your heart. And if you hate your brother or neighbor, you have murderous intention in your heart, making you guilty before God of murder. This principle makes clear that God can and does hold us responsible not only for our actions but also for the attitudes within our hearts. We have a moral obligation to obey both God’s negative law, “Do not murder,” and simultaneously obey God’s positive law, “Love your neighbor.”

Let me wrap up with a reading from the book of Leviticus. This is from Leviticus 20 concerning the abhorrent sin of child sacrifice, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Say to the people of Israel: Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people because he has given one of his children to Molech, thus profaning my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. If the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.”

This tells us that if one man commits the abhorrent sin of child sacrifice and the people do nothing to stop it but tacitly approve of it and do not intervene, then God will hold that man and all of the people who do nothing equally responsible for breaking God’s law. God holds them all equally responsible with those who shed innocent blood with their own hands.