Ten Commandments: Number 6: On self harm, refugees, and pro-lifers who don’t care about life.


There’s nothing superficially controversial or disagreeable about the sixth commandment. Thou shalt not kill. Pretty self explanatory, right? And pretty much everyone – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, humanist,  or atheist would say that on a day to day basis this commandment not only makes perfect sense, but is easily kept by all of us who haven’t been arrested for manslaughter recently.

It’s never that simple though, is it?

In fact, for a commandment that on the surface would appear to be one of the most unifying across faith or non-faith practices, it’s perhaps the most divisive.

I’ve never really given much thought to whether this is a commandment I keep or not. It’s one that I tend to think I can comfortably tick off my “generally good human being by other human being standards” list, and concentrate on the more tricky ones like not coveting my neighbours stuff.

For some reason , when I thought about this post though, the phrase that came to me was ‘self harm’. Not self harm in the literal physical sense, which is generally precipitated by psychiatric illness and is tremendously distressing both for both those who self harm and their loved ones, but self harm in a a completely different sense. I thought about all the times that I’ve quieted the voice inside of me that knows the right thing to do. The times when God, my conscience, and all the warnings of my those who are maybe a little wiser and older than me sound in my head, but I quickly push them into that dark space that quietly lingers when you’re in the middle of some mess you know you shouldn’t be in the middle of. Because those are the times when little pieces of you die. Those are the times when in some form, you allow that self destructive side of you to win.

And it dawned on me that a simplistic understanding of ‘thou shalt not kill’ only focuses on abortion clinics and serial killers whilst completely missing the point.

I don’t want to think about this commandment only in the negative. I want to ask myself, how do I aid in the Divine willing to affirm life in every human being, including myself?

If I care about aborted fetuses but I am unmoved by police brutality or Syrian refugees, and have no compassion for a single mother on benefits, have I understood this commandment? If I care about Syrian refugees, but I find it easy to destroy someone’s reputation with gossip, have I understood? And if I appear saintly to others but secretly allow habits and behaviours to creep into my life that are destroying me from the inside out, have I understood this commandment?

I so wholeheartedly believe that God wants us to see more than murder in this. That more than the command to not kill (the most accurate translation is actually “thou shalt not commit unlawful murder” – there are far too many grisly bits in the Bible for it to mean anything else), is the command to seek the source of life and love, and then share that with those around us in the way that we live.

“Whoever drinks from the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst again. But the water that I shall give him shall be a well springing up into everlasting life” ~ John 4:14

How are you affirming life today?

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