‘Thou shalt not kill’
A Christian Science perspective: A look at this imperative command from Moses’ Decalogue and what the Ten Commandments mean for us today.
We see many examples of people doing all they can to save lives in the face of aggression. (See, for instance, The Christian Science Monitor’s recent report “How an elderly vet saved 16 children from attack in Illinois library.”) Their actions are bold reminders that humanity fundamentally can reject taking another’s life. I find these examples compel me to deeply consider if “Thou shalt not kill” – one of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17) – can be more universally understood as a spontaneous and guiding force within us.
Many religions and civic laws include the Ten Commandments in some form. By this, we could say that almost everyone on earth, to some degree, knows that to kill another human being goes against acceptable behavior. But to consider, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), as just a man-made law, misses its essential healing purpose.
The purpose of the commandment is to free us from destructive elements of human thought that can lead to violence and killing. When obeyed, this law helps us break away from sinful and destructive behavior; it helps us conform to our higher nature as children of God – expressing mercy, wisdom, and acts of deep compassion. I feel that this commandment helps define what truly constitutes our character – to do good, and not evil. I use this law as a basis for praying for the world. In my prayers to better understand God and our relationship to Him, I realize that this law isn’t some external force being imposed on us, but a law within each one of us that we fulfill by expressing who we are as God’s children.
There is a particularly helpful example in the Bible that shows that this command to protect life is within us. It’s an exchange between Christ Jesus and his disciples. The disciples once asked him if they could destroy those who were working against Jesus and his mission. Jesus rebuked his disciples and said: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:55, 56).
There are many facets within that account to consider. But taking just one point we can see that, as Jesus explained, not destroying – but preserving life – is our purpose. In this one moment, he gives us an understanding that as the children of God, who is the giver of all life, we must appreciate and uphold life.
I pray each day to understand more deeply that everyone has been made by the same Father-Mother God to be obedient to the command “Thou shalt not kill”; that each of us is divinely impelled to cherish life. Prayer that establishes this truth in thought challenges us to reject the idea that any one of us could break that law and commit murder. The corrective rebuke Christ Jesus gave to his disciples purified their thought and changed their actions. Today, that same healing Christ speaks to every individual consciousness to liberate us from even the darkest motives that would tempt a person to murder.
Each one of us has a connection with the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, helps us understand this when she points to the fact that everyone’s true nature, as man – God’s spiritual reflection – is to be obedient to divine law. She wrote in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “The Christianly scientific man reflects the divine law, thus becoming a law unto himself. He does violence to no man” (p. 458).
This fact about man enables me to pray for my local and global neighbors in a much more clarifying and effective way. It helps me see that “thou shalt not kill” links us in the common rejection of murder; and that the true idea of man is an eternal spiritual power that is present to bind humanity to consciously uphold life. My prayers are that we come to know that the spirit within us is not to destroy lives, but to save them.