One of the shortest and simplest of the Ten Commandments is the sixth one: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Maybe in hearing this commandment, you think, Okay, the other commandments are relevant to my life, but I don't have to pay much attention to this one, because it has absolutely nothing to do with me.
On the contrary, I would venture to say that all of us are murderers, if we apply the meaning of Jesus Christ and His words in the New Testament.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (vv. 21-22).
Jesus certainly widened the definition and consequences of murder, didn't He? He was saying, "You think murder is simply an action that begins in the hands; I'm telling you it's an attitude that begins in the heart." As Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
The Greek word for anger in verse 22 refers to a brooding, seething, nurtured anger. It's holding a grudge against someone and saying spiteful, gossiping things to tear them down. Most of us haven't gone out and killed someone, but by this definition, we've all committed murder.
Verses 23-24 reveal the remedy for this attitude: "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
I call this active forgiveness, where you deal with anger in three steps: First, admit it. Second, correct it. And third, expedite it. Don't allow bitterness or anger to develop and boil up (see Ephesians 4:26).
We've all committed murder in some form or fashion. Any time we tear down or destroy another person, it's serious, and we must deal with it. If you have hate in your heart, it will eventually destroy you as it eats away at your spiritual life and hurts others in the body of Christ. No one gets away with murder.
Let's ask the Lord for clean hands and a pure heart, receiving the forgiveness that He freely gives and becoming, as Paul wrote, "innocent of the blood of all men" (Acts 20:26).