If there is one Commandment most of us feel we do pretty well with it is the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill.” We may have done a lot of things we are not proud of, but the numbers dwindle of those who have actually fatally shot, stabbed, or by some other means ended someone’s life.
So if we are looking to what God’s will is here, we may think it is as simple as “it is not his will for me to murder someone.” But it is so much more than that! And you get the sense of how much more when we read Luther’s explanation, “We are to fear and love God so that we do not hurt our neighbor in any way, but help him in all his physical needs.”
So where does Luther come up with all this explanation? I’m glad you asked! He comes up with it where he typically comes up with stuff. He comes up with these insights from the Scriptures. He would have had Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in mind, where in Matthew 5 Jesus declares that being angry with another, or giving insult to another is tantamount to breaking the Fifth Commandment. Luther would also have been aware of passages in James 2 and in 1 John 3 where the hearer is warned of the absence of love when we do not share food, clothing, and other goods needed for life with our neighbor in need. The absence of love is hate, and hate is at the root of murder.
So in our discernment of God’s will, toss out the crystal ball and other cryptic methods of discernment, and learn from the Fifth Commandment it is God’s will for me to help my neighbor is all his physical needs. As has been said and is worth repeating. Learning God’s will take a little effort, for it is taught in God’s Word. But doing God’s will is really difficult. It will require prayer and God’s mercy.
SINCE YOU ASKED...
How are we to under- stand the Easter Feast?
“Easter is to be understood as the crown of the whole year, the queen of feasts, and as such it lasts not for a day, not for a week, but for a week of weeks – a week not made up of seven days
but of seven weeks. So the Sundays of this season are called the Sundays of Easter. It is one extended feast. ... The Gospels for the Sundays of Easter present the themes of resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit as aspects or stages of the Easter Mystery...”
(from the Manual on the Liturgy a companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, publ. by Augsburg)