the Only Murderer?
Some time ago CBSs 60 Minutes showed a video in which Jack Kevorkian, the so-called “Doctor Death,” actually murdered Thomas Youk who was suffering from Lou Gehrigs disease. Kevorkian claims to have promoted the video so that he could provoke a showdown with Michigan prosecutors and stimulate public sympathy toward legalizing assisted suicide. Before the death of Youk, Kevorkian had assisted 130 other persons in killing themselves through suicide, but this was reportedly the first occasion in which the doctor had actively performed the murder himself.
All right-thinking and moral people should justifiably condemn Kevorkian as a murderer. We know that God commanded Israel, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Paul repeats the prohibition for our benefit (Romans 13:9). We also realize that all murderers are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:29 with v. 32) and that “the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things” (2:2). The words of God in Revelation 21:8 are sobering indeed, for in this passage we read that all murderers will be cast into “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” The apostle John adds to the seriousness of this sin when he declares that “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Evidently this refers to those who are guilty of self-murder (suicide) as well as those guilty of regular murder of another, as in Kevorkians case.
But is this sin only a personal and spiritual matter? Does society and the government have anything to do with it? The Scriptures seem to provide enough evidence that we can answer this with some finality even though we may not be able to understand every facet of the issue and the answer. After the world-wide flood, in which God saved Noah and his family, the Lord said:
- “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every mans brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds mans blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:5-6, NASB).
This passage seems to be saying that if an animal kills a man, it is to be killed. And if a man or woman murders another human being, then that person is to be killed. Is there any other evidence that a murder must be put to death by society? When Peter was about to defend the life of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Another passage may add to this evidence. Paul speaks about the role of the civil government in this way: “If you do what is evil, be afraid; for it [the civil authority] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). In applying this principle to his own life, Paul said to Festus, the Roman authority in Judea: “If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die” (Acts 25:11). There seems to be a place for capital punishment, inflicted by the government on murderers. The fact that very, very few murderers are actually put to death in America does show how dreadfully far this country has departed from Scriptural principles.
The Christian himself, however, will not want to partake of this work of justice committed to the civil government, since the follower of Christ operates according to the law of love rather than the law of justice. The Christian will be merciful, loving, compassionate, and will not repay evil for evil (cf. Matthew 5:38-47; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:8-9; Colossians 3:12-14). The government simply cannot operate according to these Christian virtues as long as there are carnal and evil men who respect neither God nor their fellow-man. Notice the instruction to Christians in Romans 12:14-21 in contrast to the description of civil government in Romans 13:1-7 to see the point we are seeking to make here.
We have spoken about Jack Kevorkian and, hopefully, most of our readers will recognize him as a deliberate, outspoken, and aggressive murderer. However, before we close the book and think the last word has been spoken on the sin of murder, let us remember that the principle of respect for our life and the life of others finds application in many different ways in society. Consider several of them:
1. Abortion. Many people, in the name of “freedom of choice,” claim that they have a right to kill their unborn babies. Simply because a child has not yet been born does not give us the privilege (?) of taking their life. Surely God will not hold guiltless those doctors and nurses who have murdered hundreds and hundreds of innocent little children! Nor will he hold guiltless those mothers and fathers who have chosen to kill the little child they have conceived.
2. Infanticide. Although it occurs infrequently, sometimes a newborn that is greatly deformed and handicapped will be allowed to die. The baby is just thought to be more trouble than he or she is worth! Is this not a form of killing that God would severely condemn?
3. Euthanasia. Kevorkian has been known to be a radical advocate of euthanasia for those who are terminally ill. The Hemlock Society also promotes this form of self-murder for those who are aged and whose life is hard and seemingly unbearable. The Christian knows that though life can be difficult and sometimes painful, this does not give us the right to take life that God has given.
4. Suicide. Over 30,000 people in this country alone take their own life each year and many times this many attempt the act. Whether we speak of killing someone else or killing ourselves, surely this must be considered murder.
5. Drunk Driving. Drivers who are intoxicated and drive are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people each year. The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) does what it can to curb this slaughter of human lives. Surely the drunk driver is not only sinning because of his drunkenness (1 Cor. 6:9-10) but because of the jeopardy he causes others on the road.
6. Tobacco Use. It has well been pointed out that smoking is the chief preventable cause of various diseasessuch as cancer. Not only does the smoker engage in a self-destructive act, but he also exposes others to cancer-causing agents if they are near him. In effect, the smoker fails to love others and is a potential murderer.
7. Drunkenness. We have already spoken about drunk driving, but any continual intoxication is harmful to the body and may lead to cirrhosis of the liver and other serious health conditions.
8. Drug Use. Anyone who lives near a major city is aware of the disastrous effects of cocaine and other lethal drugs. The use (or misuse) of drugs takes multiplied lives each year. Surely this is an overlooked form of murder.
9. AIDS. Several of the leading causes of AIDS are male homosexuality (this has generally been the chief cause), illicit drug use (sharing of infected needles), and, increasingly, heterosexual sex with an infected HIV carrier. Would not these activities also constitute forms of murder?
10. Gluttony and Dietary Idolatry. This is a form of “murder” that is often overlooked but one that is much in the news. Researchers, doctors, and nutritionists tell us that eating too much and eating the wrong kinds of foods lead to cardiovascular disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and other physical problems are also related to diet. In other words, much heart disease and other disease could be prevented if people simply practiced self-control with their diet and used wisdom regarding what they eat. It has been said that we are killing ourselves with our spoons!
Obviously, there are many other forms of murder but the mention of these is sufficient to remind us that we can kill ourselves and others in different ways. We do not need to be Kevorkian to be a murderer. We do not need to be an abortionist to be a murderer. We do not need to assist in euthanasia to be a murderer. Let us not self-righteously point a finger and overlook any self-destructive or other-destructive forms of “killing” of which we are guilty. Let us beware of murder!