Last week while I was at the weekly prison ministry down at the Tucker Unit, I talked with a young man for about a half hour about some spiritual struggles he was having and issues with his upbringing. My conversation reminded me of what we discussed on Sunday about killing, anger, and the sixth commandment.
This young man (we’ll call him John) grew up in rural northern Arkansas and was essentially raised by white supremacists. From an early age he was told to judge other people based off of appearances. Countless family members and friends of his had been involved in illicit activity, from weapons and drug trafficking to even murder. He talked about how a relative of his had killed someone because they “looked” hispanic.
Fortunately, a few years ago John had a conversion experience and came to know God’s all-inclusive love. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is–God loves us all equally and invites us to become a part of his family. John was also being mentored by two African American inmates in the program and growing in his faith each day. He would actually reach out to folks he knew from his previous life and try to evangelize them (even if they responded by insulting, threatening, or disowning him).
During my conversation with John, I noticed something very important about the sixth commandment and Jesus’ teachings in Matthew’s gospel:
Anger and killing are often on the same spectrum.
If we never address anger in our hearts, the outcome will never be pretty. Either we will become jaded and calloused to the world around us, or even worse, we might act on that anger and harm someone. This was clear in John’s family and their friends. They indulged in racially-motivated anger, believing that folks with nonwhite skin were to blame for all the world’s problems. And in the most extreme cases, this anger actually lead to murder itself. Personal hate produced more hate, and often that produced “public” sins of violence and terrorism.
As Christians, we subscribe to a completely different reality in God’s kingdom. I’m so grateful that John began to realize this as he pursued Jesus Christ. In our world filled with violence, we always must remember prophecies like Isaiah 2:4:
God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
In other words, the fullness of God’s kingdom has absolutely no hatred, violence, war, death, or destruction. Everyone will finally experience the hope and resurrection only Jesus can offer. When we finally live in God’s presence, we will experience the indescribable peace of Christ. There will be neither violence nor anger in the age to come.
The sixth commandment sounds so simple, yet it cuts to the heart of how we oftentimes view the world. We are tempted to think of our earthly struggles as ones that can be solved through violence. Our own personal struggles with violence might not be as extreme as John’s case, but we still struggle with it on a daily basis. As Christians, you and I are called to put our full faith and hope in Jesus alone.
Killing someone will not bring resolution. Neither will winning a war or even hitting someone back. Even indulging in anger will just leave you feeling unsatisfied in sin.
Jesus is the only thing that can fix our broken world.