Thursday, March 05, 2020

Six of Ten

Lent is traditionally a season of contemplating the Ten Commandments, or words of life. How many of them can you call to mind? Here’s the sixth:

You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:13

Over and again, it is found to be the sixth Commandment — just two words in the Hebrew — that is most readily called to mind. In part, this is surely because it is the most visceral (and, for all that the King James Version, Thou shalt not kill, has colonised our imaginations, it is murder, extra-judicial killing, that is prohibited here). In part, it is also because murder is always the consequence of fear of being found out to have broken another Commandment — seven, eight, ten — or anger or envy at discovering that someone close to us has done so; and the subsequent attempt to hide tracks, to deflect suspicion — not only by the murderer, but also by key witnesses who do not wish to be exposed in relation to their own transgressions — trespasses onto the ninth life-giving word.

You shall not murder, then, lies at the very heart of a web of violations — and, conversely, freedoms. Little wonder that crime fiction, most often the investigation of a homicide, is so perennially popular an exploration of human nature.

Jesus said, to belittle someone is to break this Commandment. For to belittle someone is to cause them to die, inside: it is murder, or at least attempted murder, of the spirit, the inner person. And the spirit can be crushed, can be bound, unjustly — extra-judicially — in a cellar.

Murder, in all its forms, interrupts, disrupts, freedom. Yet it holds itself out to us as being the very means to that end. It is, as such, an idol (see the second word), the image of a false god (of whom Moses himself had to be disabused).

Who do you fantasise being dead?

What do you hope this death will achieve for you?

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