Forgiveness For Murderous Hearts And Slandering Tongues

Text: Exodus 20:1-17 and Matthew 5:21-26

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tonight, as we continue to journey towards Calvary’s Cross, we move on to the Eighth and the Fifth Commandments.

The Eighth Commandment states,

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

The Fifth Commandment states,

          “You shall not murder.”

Now, both of these commandments have a somewhat similar theme.  That theme is the protection of the gift of a good reputation and the gift of life.  In other words, the gift of a good reputation has to do with the protection of one’s overall quality and disposition—that which tends to be in the sphere of a person’s character—whereas, the gift of life has to do with the protection of one’s overall physical body. Indeed, both a good reputation and physical life are precious gifts given to us and should be protected in every way.  Both your neighbor’s reputation and his life need to be protected, that is to say, protected from you and from me. 

But why do these gifts need protection from us?  They need protection because of our hearts and because of the tactics of the Evil One.  Yes, from our hearts proceed all evil thoughts.  These evil thoughts are not just left alone in the heart, but are like hot embers.  They are hot embers that are fanned by the Evil One in order that they catch fire.  When they catch fire, the flame attacks other persons by an abusive tongue, or possibly through a punch thrown into the face of a neighbor. 

There is a pretty definable pattern in all of this, even for us Christians.  What typically happens is that “Satan gets another Christian to sin against us in deed or word. It pleases Satan if a person with spiritual significance or authority, such as a parent, pastor, spouse or leader in the Church sins against us. Their spiritual status, their office, magnifies their offense and intensifies the damage that it does. This is a kind of ritual abuse, the misuse of holy things against us.”[1]

“After the offense has occurred, Satan gets us to brood over it, like a stuck track or a video loop, repeatedly and obsessively in our minds, with every greater emphasis on the gravity and injustice of it. As we process the offense and its effect on us, Satan gradually distorts our remembrance and our assessment of it. He uses this offense to encourage us to bring our mental accusations against the offender in the court of our minds. There he presides over the proceedings as we hold a secret trial in which we both prosecute and pass judgment on the wrongdoer.”[2]

“The more we brood on the offense, the angrier we get against the offender. [This is the beginnings of hatred.]  We remember all the other offenses that we have ever suffered from that person and all the other people that have ever hurt us. And that fuels our anger and our desire for justice, [thus the start of our breaking the Fifth Commandment].  We maintain that we are in the right; we are justified in our judgment of them. We hold the moral high ground against them. Then, before we know it, anger leads to bitterness and resentment. This, in turn, leads to outrage, hatred, and lust for revenge. And so we end up stewing in our own poison.”[3]

Keep in mind though, that this poison of anger and hatred don’t merely remain in our hearts, but rather, as previously mentioned, this poison seeps out through our tongues with passive aggressive slander towards our neighbor behind their back. 

Things are heightened though, because more times often than not, this passive aggressive slander becomes focused towards our neighbor’s face with direct verbal attacks.  Yes, if not curbed and stopped, the poisonous anger and  hatred go from passive aggressive slander to direct slander, and then to physical threats; if left unchecked, the physical threats are enacted with a push, a shove, and/or a fist hitting our neighbor’s face, and then to the pinnacle of the conflict, possible death. 

Dear friends, when we begin to hate those whom we should love and when our tongues turn from instruments of praise to weapons of slander, not only does Satan have us right where he wants us, but we have violated the Fifth and Eighth Commandments. 

Yes, when our hands and tongues are not instruments of help, but weapons that damn, curse, and tear down, we have gone the way of attacking the gift of life and the gift of a good reputation.    

But you may say to yourself, “I don’t need to worry; I have never physically murdered anyone before.  I don’t need to worry for I have never told a lie in the court of law against a person on trial.”  This is a common response to God’s Law.  Indeed, this is a very common response.  You see, all of us try to defend ourselves when we look at the Law.  We say to ourselves, “At least I have not killed anyone.  At least I have never lied under oath.”  We attempt to believe that God’s Law is for other people, those people ‘out there’ in the messy world.  We convince ourselves that we are not that bad, in order to convince ourselves that we are righteous.

In tonight’s reading though, from the Gospel of Matthew, we hear from Jesus on this subject of the Law.  What is interesting to note is that Jesus does not take the Old Testament Commandments to a new level.  He is not adding to the Laws of Moses or adjusting the Ten Commandments to accommodate a unique message.  There is only one Law because there is only one Lord.  In other words, what Jesus does is that He simply expounds on the essence of the commandments.  For example, in our reading from tonight, Jesus essentially states that if you have anger towards a brother or sister or if you have insulted a brother or sister, you are guilty of breaking God’s Commandments.  Otherwise stated, Jesus is closing any loopholes that we might create with God’s Law.  He is attempting to show that no one is righteous, that no one does things right, and that we all fall short. 

Permit me to do the same as well tonight.  That is to say, permit me the opportunity to close any loopholes by applying the Eighth and Fifth Commandments to you.  Dear friends:[4]

Have you gossiped, delighted to tell others about the faults or mistakes of another, excusing yourself especially by saying that you spoke only the truth?

Have you slanted stories to your benefit or deceived others by withholding some evidence of the story?

Have you found ways gladly and willingly to explain, in the best possible way, those words or actions of others that hurt you?

Have you defended your neighbor when things said about your neighbor have made others think badly about him or her?

Have you been faithful in keeping the secrets of another’s heart entrusted to you in confidence?

Brothers and sisters, repent, for you have broken the Eighth Commandment. 

Dear friends:[5]

Have you treated your neighbor’s body and life as gifts of God to him?

Have you injured your neighbor with violent actions, hitting and beating on your neighbor, spoken debasing and insulting words, using foul or dirty words to describe the neighbor, or murdered him with thoughts of anger, contempt, and hatred?

Have you injured your neighbor by ridicule, by neglecting to feed or clothe him, withholding compassion and comfort from him?

Have you avoided giving help to your neighbor, avoiding involvement with him in his difficulty?

Brothers and sisters, repent, for you have broken the Fifth Commandment. 

As we can see, we tragically assassinate our neighbor’s character through the careless use of our tongues and we murder our neighbor through injuring their body by neglecting their needs or inflicting harm upon them.  Truly, something can rub us the wrong way about our neighbor and our anger can quickly ignite, causing our blood to boil, and then hatred seeps through our pores.  In a matter of minutes our tongues can get going a mile a minute and before we know it, we’ve injured our neighbor to their face or behind their back.  Undeniably, our neighbor needs to be protected from you and me.  We need to be protected from our neighbor as well, for this is God’s design.  This is what the Eighth and the Fifth Commandment are all about.  They are about God setting a protective fence around us and around others in order to protect the gift of life and the gift of a good reputation.  

There is another side to all of this as well.  In these commandments the Lord is trying to protect you from yourself.  You see, once hatred sets in, you and I can not only do a tremendous amount of damage to our neighbor, but believe it or not, this hatred can also slowly begin to dislodge us from Christ’s Church. That’s right, hatred, which is sin, can lead to spiritual suicide.  This hatred seduces us, because it makes us feel justified in our anger.  We convince ourselves that we are right and everyone else is wrong, in order to validate our hatred.  Sadly, we then cut ourselves off from anyone that would disagree with our assessments.  We will even cut ourselves off from Christ’s church, for we do not want to let go of our anger; our hands are just too clinched around our hatred.  Darkness sets in.  Isolation increases.  Spiritual suicide encroaches. 

Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy on us.

Dear friends, not only are the Ten Commandments the way that God intends to protect His gifts to and for us, but they also reveal the disastrous depths of our depravity.  Sure, the Fifth and Eighth Commandments are designed to protect the gifts of life and a good reputation, but these commandments also do something profound, they make our sin known.  In other words, the commandments not only protect God’s gifts, but they reveal and expose our sinful nature, that which wreaks havoc on our lives and the lives of others.  The commandments uncover that we do not fear, love, and trust the Lord, and that we do not love our neighbor as ourselves.  The commandments not only curb our outward actions, but they show us the utter depths of our broken heart as well.

We need mercy.

We need forgiveness.

We need grace.

We need Mt. Calvary. 

We need Jesus.

Fear not dear friends.  Contrary to what you may think, the Lord does not reject a heart that is broken by and ensnarled by hate.  The Lord is not turned off from a broken, beat down, and crippled spirit.  The Lord loves, and does not hate those broken from the seduction of hate.  The Lord loves, and does not curse, those whose tongues have been contaminated by sin.  Rather than loathe, the Lord joins the broken heart and the foul tongue—the sinner—to His mercy, for forgiveness and healing, for peace and purity. 

Dear Baptized Saints, hear! 

The Lord joined you to eternal life in your baptism and gave you a divine reputation by placing ‘His’ name upon you. In your baptisms you partake of Christ and the fruits of his death and resurrection. 

Hear the good news! 

You are forgiven of your hatred.  You are forgiven for your reckless tongue.  These sins are buried deeply in the wounds of Jesus, where they will never be able to rise up to condemn you. 

Look!  You are Baptized and fed in the Holy Supper!

You are washed clean in your baptisms, given a holy reputation as a redeemed Saint.  Your tongue and mouth are redeemed by the precious body and blood that are laid in your mouth at the Holy Supper. 

Protection of physical life!  Eternal Life!  A good reputation!  Declared a Saint!  All given to and for you—as complete and total gift.

The Lord, create in you a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you.  The Lord, create in you a clean heart to see the gifts of the life and a good reputation.  The Lord, renew a right spirit within you to walk in the Eighth and Fifth commandments, towards your neighbor.  The Lord protect and keep your life and your reputation, now, in the days to come, and unto everlasting life. The Lord, restore to you the joy of your salvation.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] John W. Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2008), 234-236.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ken Korby, “The Ten Commandments Preach Repentance; That Is, By Them God Shows Us Our Sin And How Much We Need A Savior.” (12 April 2013) (9 March 2015).

[5] Ibid.

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