The Value of Life in God's Economy
This week in our study over the Ten Commandments, we looked at God's sixth commandment, that we are not to shed innocent blood in murder. When reflecting on this passage and Cody's message, there were three distinct takeaways that I wanted to share with you.
1. Life is precious
As human beings, we are created in God's image. It is clear from the scriptural emphasis on what it means to distinctly be human that humanity is uniquely different from everything else in God's creation. We see this further emphasized in the incarnation of Jesus Christ; in what theologians call the hypostatic union, where we see the human and the divine united in one man. In other words, Jesus, as the God-man, serves as the greatest reflection of God's image in man. All of this, while very technical, is actually also quite important to our understanding of the Sixth Commandment.
You see, we need to understand the Biblical importance of being human if we are to rightly understand the immense value God places on human life. In Psalm 139:13-16, the psalmist sings of the great care that God took in creating him. We aren't merely mass produced like some cheap widget on an assembly line, rather we are carefully "knit together" by God, like an artisan crafting a priceless piece. There is great intimacy described throughout the Psalm. To say that God is invested in our lives does not do justice to the great care he has for each of his creatures. Even those who would continue on in rebellion against him.
Recent civil rights movements, like the "Black Lives Matter" and "#MeToo" movements, have sought to emphasize the value of certain races or genders, but the reality is, in God's creation, all lives matter, regardless of race, creed, status, sex, or any other physical, societal, or cultural distinction we might seek to use to differentiate, or worse yet, marginalize one another. In the same way that currency has value based on the backing power of the issuing agent, human life has value because God in his sovereign power has declared it as such in his Word. As the old Sunday school hymn goes, "we are precious in his sight." Jesus loves his children...all of them...and our lives are precious to him.
2. There is no distinction among sins in God's economy
One thing that I think is often lost in the study of the Ten Commandments is that there are ten of them. That may seem like a silly and obvious observation, but it is a crucial one to recognize and think through. God doesn't command Moses to make sure that the people obey just one or two of them, and then if they can get around to it, maybe try to follow the others. No, rather he expects and intends obedience to all of his commands. This means that each of them are equal in power and importance.
This may seem obvious to us at a thought level. I wouldn't expect to be able to stand before God and make a case that I did a great job at not worshiping idols, so he should clearly ignore the fact that I lived out my days as a lying, cheating, murderer. Of course we get how ridiculous that is. But do we practically live our lives in the same way? Are we not all prone to rationalize and excuse our "lesser" sins in light of those that we deem more egregious?
It's easy for us to look at someone that we feel has "out-sinned" the rest of us and view them as beyond hope...or even of no value. But God mourns over our transgressions with the same deep hurt that he feels over theirs. It's often easy to desire to see a friend or loved one respond in faith to the gospel, but do we labor as fervently for the the soul of the murderers, child predators, and rapists among us? No, we desire that they receive the just wrath they deserve. But justice, and by extension forgiveness, is ultimately reserved for the one whose righteous rule has been transgressed.
In Psalm 51, David, who has just been confronted by his own sin in murdering another man after being consumed by lustful desires for that man's wife, rightly declares that his sin is against God and he alone (vs. 4). How can that be? What about his sin against the man and the man's wife? Of course his sin has wounded those people and his repentance requires, as much as possible, that he seek forgiveness and reconciliation with those he has hurt. But ultimately, his sin, and all sin, is against God. When we rightly understand that, we can rightly see that there is no distinction among sinners. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
3. The gospel is bigger than your sin
This brings me to my final takeaway and one that I think we all need to regularly be reminded of. You can't out-sin God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Upon the cross, Jesus made atonement for the sins of everyone - man, woman, and child - who would accept the forgiveness available to them by professing their faith in him as their Lord and Savior. There is no deficiency in his offering.
Too often we allow ourselves to become convinced that our sins are just too great to be forgiven. We believe the lies that we aren't loved enough in Christ to be forgiven. We busy ourselves with vain attempts to work off our debt, or maybe at least enough of it, so that Jesus can accomplish the rest. But Jesus' final words on the cross declare that his atoning work is finished!
Maybe this week you sat in the service and listened to Cody's message and struggled with the pain and guilt of a past abortion. Maybe you have victimized or been victimized and don't feel like there is enough forgiveness for the shame you continue to carry. Maybe the commandment you struggle to obey was last week or the week before, or maybe it's coming up in the coming weeks, and you just plan to not come that week, because you don't need another reminder of the ways you fall short. If only this week could be the week that you finally win the battle against that sin in your life so that you can come before Jesus all cleaned up. Or maybe you have failed so many times that you just don't even fight anymore...it's too late for you.
Regardless of where you fall and where you struggle, the gospel is good news for you! Jesus took on flesh and lived as the perfect image of God in a man. He succeeded in every way in which we have failed. And now, through faith in his finished work, we have access to his righteousness in our union with him. This means that our record of debt is erased and in its place, we receive his perfect record of obedience. On the cross, he has completely, once and for all time, paid the price for all of our sins. He took our place! This is great news because it means no matter how far we have strayed from obedience to God, we have an open invitation to come back home into the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. And this is all made possible for us through the work of Jesus. This is good good news indeed!
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 6 - The Sixth Commandment
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. Is all killing forbidden in the Sixth Commandment?
2. Why does life have value?
3. What does Jesus teach concerning the Sixth Commandment?