October 25, 2020: Sunday School: Do No Harm! - Bernie Shoemaker

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Exodus 20:13; 1 John 3:11-18

Respect for life stands at the center of God’s laws for our world.

I. Connect to My Experience

On a cold night in January of 2019, a family gathered together for an evening of food and fun.  As was their tradition, they pulled out MONOPOLY and got to work, buying up property and trying to take over the game board at one another’s expense.  Tensions rose as one cousin began to dominate the game.  An argument broke out. Overcome by rage, one of the participants, stood, hit another player, and violently shoved him into a mirror.  The mirror shattered, inflicting significant cuts.  The police were called and the victim was treated for his wounds.  What began as a night of fun fell apart when anger and hate took the reins.

o Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which emotions began to run high and people (maybe even yourself) responded poorly? If so, what happened?

o When have you seen the effects of anger and hate in your life or in the lives of those around you?

It might seem that some commandments don’t need to be emphasized, simply because most people would consider them either obvious or universal in scope. The commandment for this week’s study would certainly be among them, as it is consistently identified as a prohibition universally embraced by cultures throughout the world. Yet by including the commandment, “You shall not murder,” within the Ten Commandments, living out this prohibition within the covenant with God also reflects God’s nature and character.

When God gives the law to the people of God, God forbids murder. But a closer look reveals that God also forbids hate. Jesus strips away the legal loopholes and boldly declares that to hate is to murder as both go against the law of love.

A. Regarding Life (Read Exodus 20:13)

The prohibition against murder was the sixth command given to the people. It was not, however, new information. God’s contempt for taking the life of another is recorded as early as Genesis 4 when Cain murders his brother Abel. 

o Murder is extreme. How might we “skim” over this particular commandment, feeling perhaps that it doesn’t have much to say to our ordinary lives?

In the Gospels, Jesus declares that hatred towards another person merits the same judgment as murder (Read Matthew 5:21-26). 

The prohibition was against killing for whatever cause, by whatever method, and under whatever situation. Especially singled out were acts of violence out of hatred, anger, malice, deceit, revenge, or for personal gain (which would explain Jesus’ teaching on murder and anger in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:21-26). It did not matter if killing was not the intention. Because of the broad range covered by this prohibition, murder does not adequately encompass the full breadth of the term and prohibition, although murder would be included.

o What does this consistency, from Genesis through Exodus and Leviticus, all the way to the Gospels reveal about the heart of God toward human interaction and the preservation of life?

o Why is life so precious to God? (In whose image were we made?)

B. Murder and the Power of Sin

Although 1 John is called a letter, it reflects few characteristic features of an ancient letter or epistle. This has led some to identify it as a general letter, a sermon or homily, or a religious tract or treatise. It deals with the issue of division and offers assurance to those who have been faithful. At the heart of this letter are teachings about the incarnation of Jesus and His saving work as well as extended conversations about the importance of love in the Christian life and community.

(Read 1 John 3:11-12)

John reminds his readers of the heart of God’s command: to love one another. He contrasts this timeless instruction with the behavior of Cain, the first murderer. Cain did not leap from love to murder in a day. His heart was wrongly oriented likely by small disobediences and rebellion. His devotion to God became anemic as evidenced by his offering. 

o We cannot fathom going so far as to committing murder. But, how might persistent resistance to the Lord’s direction and casual indifference to the power of sin lead us to previously unimaginable acts?  

o Cain’s lack of righteousness was revealed by his treatment of his brother. What does our treatment of others reveal about our righteousness before God?

11"We should love one another." 1 John 3:1-4:21 could be described as John’s LOVE chapter. Do we really love God? Are we marked by love? Is love the chief characteristic of our lives? Do we love one another? God is Love; therefore if we love God, we are bound to love one another. In fact, since God is LOVE, it is absolutely impossible to love God and not to love one another. If we have the mark of love upon our lives, if people can clearly see that we love one another, then we love God. But if we have and hold feelings against anyone else, this is clear proof that we do not love God.

1. Love reveals one’s true nature. Love shows that one is either a child of God or of the devil (v.10)

2. Love is the message heard from the beginning (v.11).

3. Love does not persecute the righteous (v.12-13).

4. Love is proof that one has passed from death to life (v.14).

5. Love does not hate (v.15).

6. Love is proof that one understands the love of Christ (v.16).

7. Love has compassion and gives to meet the needs of people (v.17).

Love Fulfills God’s Requirements. Romans 13:8-10 (NLT) "8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law."

C. Murder and the Greater Power of Love (Read 1 John 3:13-15)

The author shifts the focus from the Old Testament story to his readers, reminding them that they too may become the objects of hatred, because wickedness will oppose goodness.

We are free from the powers of sin and death, and participate in the very life of God now. Proof of our citizenship in this realm of life is evidenced by our love for others.

o What other measures do we use to determine if someone is a citizen of God’s kingdom? 

o John warns that the world, his term for sinful humankind, will hate us (v. 13). Why would the world hate believers?

o To hate is to murder, and it is clear evidence that such a person is not participating in the life of God. Why is hate evidence of a person who does not have the presence of Christ residing within them?

D. Active Love (Read 1 John 3:16-18)

We do not define love according to our own preferences, opinions, or convictions. We know love through Christ’s submission unto death for our sake. Verse 14 tells us that love is the mark of those who passed from death to life.

Verse 16 says that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. Why? Because He loves us. He loves us enough to die for us even when we oppose and do things against Him and stand against Him. Romans 5:6&8 tells us that Jesus Christ died for us when we were ungodly. Christ died for us when we were sinners.

The point is this: if we love God, then we follow His Son by loving people just like He did. We love them even when they oppose and do things against us and stand against us. If we love those who do things against us, then we know the love of Christ. But if we do not love those who oppose us, we do not know the love of Christ. No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends. Rom.15:13 (AMP)

The love of God at work within us will move us to active compassion. It will not allow us to rest comfortably in our excess while others go without.

o What might happen in our churches and communities if we allowed the love of God to do its work within us, moving us to active compassion?  How might we be transformed in the process?

o Why is the message of verse 18 something we must always keep in mind in our relationship with God and others?

II. Connect to My Life and the World

Created in the image of God, we are designed to embody this loving, life-giving way of being with one another.

As those who have been delivered from death and are now living into resurrection life, we joyfully live lives of love toward all people, regardless of whether the world declares someone or a group of people as unworthy of our love. First John warns us that this way of being in the world will not endear us to the world.  Rather, we will be hated.

Lest we too quickly pat ourselves on the back for being innocent of the sin of murder, the author of First John reminds us that, in God’s eyes, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer.”

We cannot close our hearts to fellow believers in need and rightly claim that the love of God still remains in us. Rather, that love must be practiced, beginning by how we respond to those closest to us. In other words, we must not merely talk about love, but live it joyfully.

o In what ways can you express the love of God to someone this week?

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