Sovereign Grace Conference

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Matt Wiltshire recently went to a music conference in Bristol and tells us about it here:

Sovereign Grace is a large organisation of churches in the US who produce a lot of good quality Christian music and some great resources for church music leaders. We have been using their songs and resources at CCW for years, so when I heard they were putting on a worship conference in the UK I thought it would be worth a trip to Bristol to see what we could learn from them.

The day I attended was pretty full on (9am-9pm!) It covered a lot of topics such as planning services, arranging music and the centrality of God’s word, and we spent plenty of time of singing and praising God together. It was massively encouraging: the musicianship was excellent and the band lead us well so that the priority of God’s words was really obvious when we were singing together.

There were several parts of the day that were particularly encouraging and I’ll blog about them in future, but one of the highlights was a talk by a pastor of a Sovereign Grace church in Minneapolis. He drew our attention to some words from the Bible from the first letter of Peter to Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey):

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2v5

It’s a bit of a weird one, telling us we are like living stones, especially strange when I was in a room full of people with whom, apart from the music leader connection, I had very little else in common. Some were a lot older, from other countries, speaking different languages, representing various religious denominations and all sorts of different professions and careers. But that was kind of the point, we were a bunch of odd, funny shaped stones, that on the face of it didn’t fit together, but when we came together before God’s word, to sing, pray and worship our creator God, we were being built into God’s house in order to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you” as Peter put in his letter just a few verses later.

A house can’t be built with just one stone and we cant come to God and just be on our own. In a wall, each stone depends on the others to hold it up, and in God’s house, each stone is hewn and shaped with intention to look its best when it is placed alongside and connected with others. What’s more, Peter tells us that Christ is the cornerstone, not just part of this building - he sets the dimensions, shape and layout of the whole thing! So we are not just a pile of stones, we are sculpted stones built together into something that is much greater than it’s constituent parts.

It means that sometimes, when we feel like we have very little in common with others in our church - different professions, personalities (and musical preferences!) - we shouldn’t be surprised. The reality is we are all odd shaped stones. But we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house, God's house, where He dwells and where we have one joy to proclaim the excellencies of our God. How incredible is it, that as we meet in worship this Sunday, together we are a hand-crafted, architectural masterpiece, a stunning edifice being built for God’s glory!

The full CV...

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On the blog we’re starting a new series called ‘Music Mondays’ which will feature a post written by one of our musicians, or relating to our music or worship. Below is the first, written by Matt Wiltshire:

Why do we worship? God reveals himself, so we respond.

Have you ever met your idol? I'm not talking about someone or something you hold in higher esteem than God (though if that is what sprang to mind then there are some previous blog posts on the 10 Commandments that you should read!) but have you ever met someone you truly admire? How did the conversation go?

When I was a teenager I remember unexpectedly meeting Steve. He introduced himself and then mentioned he was in The Stands, one of my favourite bands at the time. I was awestruck, and after I pulled myself together I started to tell him how much I loved his album, especially one particular song. Thankfully he graciously humoured me.

Steve had revealed a part of who he was, something I was in awe of, and I responded, maybe a little over the top. I'm sure you can think of similar experiences, though I imagine you probably composed yourself better than me!

When it comes to meeting God, there is a legitimate sense of awe, and the revelation and response go much further. One of the places we see this is when Moses experiences the glory of God recounted in Exodus 34:6-8:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed “The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...” And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshiped

God stated who He is and Moses worshipped. Moses knew who to worship as he had just been given a mini CV, a LinkedIn profile: God the merciful, gracious, patient, loving, faithful and just. We have a much more complete CV to draw on in our worship, as in the Bible we have the full revelation of God in Jesus. 

We can learn from Moses; when God reveals himself, our response should be worship. This song by Manchester band Rivers and Robots encourages us, just as Moses did, to bow our heads to the earth before God and worship;

To Your name alone belongs all the glory... 

and in Your presence we will fall down

Christian Concern and Dr Joe Boot  

We live in interesting times for Christian witness. Whereas a short while ago apathy or mockery was a common response to authentic Christian preaching and living, now there is increasing suspicion and even hostility in some quarters of society. With this change in temperature comes many opportunities, though the costs are always high.

I have been personally very thankful for the work of Christian Concern over the past ten years and was very pleased to be able to attend their birthday celebrations in London the other weekend. As well as their work in defending Christian freedoms, they have spoken gospel truth in places and into issues all too often abandoned by evangelical Christians. 

On top of this, they also have an eye on the longer and arguably more foundational task of re-building Christian cultural influence from the ground up. It’s in that context that I’ve come to know the ministry of Dr Joe Boot, who visited and preached for us this past Sunday. His work with Christian Concern on the Wilberforce Academy aims to equip Christians to think and act with full-blooded Christian faith in a variety of spheres and public callings. 

For an example of the theological clarity and cultural analysis Joe brings to this role and his work with Christian Concern, you might find this article a challenging and encouraging read.

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Bishops, Mission and Missionary Bishops

This past Sunday we thought about the leadership God’s people need in order to be faithful to the mission God has given us. In particular we considered how the Anglican (though not exclusively Anglican) model of oversight by a Bishop can be an important part of such leadership.

The background to this is the visit later this year of our new Bishop Andy Lines, who was appointed by GAFCON as a ‘Missionary Bishop for Europe’ last year. We are looking forward to having him preach God’s word for us and get to know CCW a little better. 

In the mean time, for those who want to see and know a little bit more, the first 24 minutes of this video is an interview with Andy:


Christ Church Walkley - 6 years on...

Jennie Jones, one of our church members looks back at God’s faithfulness to us as a church over the last 6 years…

I can still remember the day we left Christ Church Central.  I was 6 months pregnant, so prone to be on the emotional side, but it was nonetheless a scary moment.  There we were, a smallish group, walking out of the church family many of us had been part of since it started, to begin something new.  We were leaving good friends behind and it felt as if we were on our own.  But of course, we weren’t.  God was with us on that first day, and has been with us ever since, providing for us in ways we didn’t even know we’d need.  

It takes a while to call a group of people you don’t know very well “family”, but that’s what we’ve become with God’s help.  As we’ve grown numerically, we’ve grown together, helped by meeting in groups mid-week and getting to know a small group of people better, by studying God’s word and praying for one another regularly.  I’ve found it encouraging to see the many ways our church family supports and cares for each other, whether it be through practical help with meals and moving house, or more emotional support with encouraging texts and prayer when someone is struggling.  This kind of sacrificial love isn’t easy, but God gives us his grace to bear with one another as we try to follow Christ’s example.  I am so thankful to God for this church family and I know that whenever I’m away and go to a different church, I’m always grateful to come back “home” the week after.

One of the things which I’ve found has helped me in “becoming family” is the growth of the women’s ministry.  From meeting for social and crafty Friday evenings once a month, to establishing more formal times of prayer and study, we’ve got to know each other better, been able to share our lives together and been there to support one another as we strive to live as Christian women in whatever role God has given us.  We were encouraged by the series on the family to follow the example Paul gives in Titus where the older women teach the younger ones.  In a congregation with a fairly low average age, some of us have had to step up to the “older” role before we may have felt ready!  One to ones and a mid week Bible study have also enabled some of us to spend more time encouraging and challenging one another as we think through how we should live in this world to glorify God and share our faith with others.

We started 6 years ago with a group of less than 10 children and we now have 3 groups in Sunday School! As one of the growing number of parents in our church family, I am very thankful to God for the children’s ministry which is always having to expand as the babies keep coming and as our children grow and require different kinds of teaching.  I am so grateful for those who teach and look after our children, supporting us, as parents, as we try to model Christian living so our children develop a living faith of their own.

I am also grateful to God for our church leaders who teach the Bible faithfully every week and help us to think through different areas of the Christian life and challenge us to live in a way that shows Jesus to those we spend time with.  It is so encouraging to see the ways people are growing and changing as they get to grips with God’s word and try to put it into practice in the way they live.

Looking back, God has blessed us in so many ways.  He provided the Library for us to meet in on Sundays, which has been a great space for us over the past 6 years.  And now, with the purchase of Forbes Road, he has given us more than we thought in a building with so many possibilities.  I pray that we dream big, knowing our God is “able to do more than we can ask or imagine.”

Why re-read the Psalms?

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This month we returned to regularly reading through the Psalms together on a Sunday. For some people this might seem like a strange practice. Aren’t the psalms a little bit random and archaic, and isn’t it confusing to be reading parts of the bible that we’re not then going on to explain?

Well, here are some brief thoughts of mine to help us understand why we’re doing this, and to help us engage with the Psalms. 

Firstly, there’s the general principle that it is good for us to have plenty of bible in our gatherings

We believe that the bible is the word of God, the Father’s testimony about and through his Son, breathed by the Spirit. Therefore our Sunday gatherings should be saturated in the bible. Moreover, it would be odd if our services gave the overall impression that our words spoken to God are more important than his words to us. Or that the only time the bible can be read is when someone is going to preach from it. This is one of the reasons we try to have scripture read, taught and sung at various points throughout our gatherings. 

But why the Psalms in particular? Here are three of the many reasons:

The Psalms are significant for piecing the bible together

In some ways the Psalms is like a poetic reflection on the history, laws and wisdom of the rest of the OT. It’s no surprise that Psalms is one of the most-quoted books in the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles clearly saw them as fundamental to understanding Jesus’s identity, life and mission. 

The Psalms are a help to us in the reality of life

The 150 songs and prayers in the Psalms cover an incredibly broad range of circumstances and emotions. This makes them of immense value pastorally, helping us work through anger, loss, fear, doubt, joy, sickness, all within covenant relationship with God our Father.

The Psalms are important for prayer and worship

(Almost) unique amongst the whole of the bible, the Psalms aren’t simply God’s words to us, many of them are also words given to us by God for us to say back to him. As such the Psalms are the prayer or song book of the bible – the place where God teaches us how to speak with him. It is no surprise that for centuries the Psalms have been pretty crucial to the corporate worship of God’s people. 

The Bible Project has a helpful video giving an overview of the content and message of the Psalms...

... and we did a short series on Psalms 1 & 2 which can be found here.

This summer why not... learn to rest?

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If you’re anything like me, you know you’re bad at resting. I know a lot of people aren’t like me, and have no problem switching off and having a day ‘off’ from work and jobs and life admin-type stuff. But equally I know a lot of Christians who struggle with the idea of ‘sabbath rest’ and don’t really know how to do it properly. So when I saw a new book coming out called ‘The Art of Rest’ I thought I’d better read it. I’m so glad I did!

Adam Mabry says the point of his book is for the Christian to discover ‘how rest is different than you thought, more important than you realised and more wonderful than you ever imagined.’ I don’t think I had ever really considered what ‘sabbath rest’ meant before. Adam helpfully lays out why rest for the Christian is so important in remembering who God is and who we are; in resistance of idolatry, autonomy and anxiety; in restoration of relationships between us and God, and us and each other; and how rest brings reward in various different ways. The final chapter begins to tackle ‘starting to stop’ and helps us think about how we actually are supposed to rest. 

Although I’m still not very good at resting, I understand much better why we, as Christians, are commanded to rest, and why that is such a privilege. It is something that I am working on, and will probably have to work on forever, until I get to eternal rest! But I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something easy to read and challenging in practical ways. It can be found here on our 10ofThose webpage. 

This summer why not... grow as a parent?

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This is the fourth in our Summer Reads series. All the books can be found and bought here.

The central focus of parenting is the gospel. You need to direct not simply the behaviour of your children, but the attitude of their hearts.
— (page xxi) 

This sentence, from the introduction of Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart pretty much captures the essential approach to parenting argued for and outlined in this extremely helpful book. 

It’s an approach that at points will be very different from, even opposed to, the standards and methods for parenting that we might pick up from the world around us. It’s an approach that is shaped instead by the bible’s goals for life in general and for the family in particular. It’s an approach that puts issues of authority, sin, forgiveness, and transformation at the centre. 

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Ted Tripp has given the church a wide-ranging, practical and biblical book, that will help parents to set the right goals and expectations for raising their children, and to employ methods of communication and discipline which fit with these gospel-oriented goals. Reading this would benefit all parents, from those who are preparing for their first child through to those with children of any age still at home.

This summer why not... pray like an apostle?

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This is the third in our Summer Reads series. Find all the books in the series, including this one, here.

I wonder what you think the church should be doing? What is it that will drive CCW forward? The preaching? Our events and evangelism? The music? Small groups? Even our new building?

None of these things are bad, by any means, but Don Carson writes:

The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

That seems like quite an obvious thing to say, and most of us will nod our heads in agreement. But the question that drives us next, and which is the premise of the book, is how on earth do we go about doing that.

Well, in 'A Call to Spiritual Reformation', Carson helps us to do that. Using prayers from Paul's epistles in the New Testament he helps us to see the importance and delight we can have in prayer, of how exciting it is to be able to come to God in prayer, what prayer teaches us about God and how we can pray better. 

If you are anything like me, your prayer life will hit peaks and troughs. You'll have good days and bad days. Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to pray but not knowing what or how to do so.

It's a book to read with your bible open next to you, and I recommend a pencil in hand too (my copy has bits underlined and notes in the margin) and it's a book to read through prayerfully. This book is a joy to read and brings even greater joy as we get our heads around both the joy and privilege of prayer, but how through that, the Lord opens our eyes further to how great he is!

The greatest way I can endorse this book is to tell you to read the prayer at the back before AND after you've read it. A prayer that Carson prays not for our greater education, but for our greater compassion. Where we don't learn simply how to pray better but how our prayers would become more fruitful adoration. Where he prays for God's blessing upon us, as without it - we are nothing.

Enjoy reading - but enjoy God and praying to him more!

This summer why not... read the bible with your children?

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The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth...
— R L Dabney, 1982

This quote opens Jon Nielsen’s book ‘Bible reading with your kids’ and sets the pattern for what is to follow - a short, direct and punchy book aimed at helping parents (and fathers in particular) form solid convictions and good habits for family bible reading. 

It starts with the assumption that Christian parents will want their children to grow up to know and follow the Lord for themselves, and from the conviction that this is most likely to happen through ‘steady and consistent exposure to the powerful word of God.’

Part 1 of the book deals with why and how, both biblically and practically. Part 2 then gives more practical details for how Jon has gone about this vital task himself. The idea isn’t that we slavishly copy his model, however. For example, in our family we read smaller chunks of scripture than seems to be typical for the author. 

Whilst readers might want to adapt the specifics for our own situation and preference, the main benefit of the book is the central conviction that reading the bible is a vital task and that fathers in particular should be engaged in it (see Ephesians 6v4). The author is well aware that many of us will feel daunted and inadequate for this task, so gives plenty of encouragement to simply give it a go and improve with time and experience.

You can listen to bible teaching related to the whole area of parenting in our ‘The Family of God’ series (see especially the sermons on ‘Family Planning’ and ‘Family Lore’).  

This summer why not... care for one another?

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This is the first in our summer reads series entitled 'This summer why not...' Each book (or couple of books) in the series finish the sentence with it's/their theme. Visit our 10ofThose page to find and order them.

When Darkness Seems my Closest Friend (Mark Meynell)

For those of us who haven’t (yet) experienced depression it can seem impossible to understand and difficult to know how to walk with a friend who is struggling with it. Like many mental health issues it can seem so other, so disorientating, sometimes even a bit frightening. In his book, Mark describes in vivid terms what depression has been and felt like for him over many years. His descriptions give a very personal insight into what living, working and ministering looks like whilst suffering chronically. But perhaps the most helpful aspect of the book is how it joins the dots between depression, guilt, shame and the Gospel in a way that really is good news. Mark points to a saviour who is enough even in the most difficult and painful times which gives real hope and purpose.

Even though I haven’t struggled with depression I could readily see so many similarities between Mark’s experience and my own, the pain of genuine guilt, the curse of imagined guilt and the isolation of shame. We seem to differ primarily in the extent to which these things influence and afflict us, in that sense this book helped me realise how many ways we are all much more similar than we are different. It’s given me genuine points of contact to explore with those who are suffering from depression, places where I can come alongside and know that in a very profound way my need is much the same as theirs. 

We will all experience or know someone close to us who suffers from depression at some point in our lives. For those who haven’t experienced its effects first hand this book is a window into life with depression, yet also helps show how the light of the gospel can break into the deep darkness. Read it and it will give you compassion, hope and respect for those who are faithful in the midst of depression and, hopefully, make you better at caring for those with depression.

Side by Side (Ed Welch)

Side by side from Ed Welch is a great refresher of some of the things we looked at earlier in the year when we did the Growing Together course. If you want to think a bit more about what it looks like to walk alongside and disciple one another this might make a great summer read. Having read it on my own, I’d encourage you to find someone to read it with and put into practice some of Ed’s advice and wisdom.

The book is split into two halves, “We are needy” and “We are needed” and the first is probably the most significant. Often, we like to help others, to be needed, and that’s important. But at our most fundamental and basic level we are all those who are needy, who need God and who need others. Our pride and our obsession with expertise so frequently prevents us from reaching out to one another. Ed helps us to see our need clearly and gives really practical pointers on how we can be those who are able and willing to ask for help from God and from one another. If at the end of the summer we all were to be doing some of the things in the book more frequently our church life would be reflecting the gospel so much more.

You shall not covet

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Today’s commandment is from Exodus 20:17:

You shall not cove your neighbour’s house, you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey or anything that is your neighbour’s.

The word 'to covet' means to want or wish for… we rarely wish for our neighbour’s ox or his donkey. We can all think of things that belong to other people that we have desired or wished for. Perhaps you wish England had been in the World Cup final instead of Croatia or that you had someone else’s friends, house, job, holidays or family, the list is endless.

Something we have been thinking about in Sunday School recently is what Jesus taught in Matthew 22:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
— Matthew 22:37-39

Is coveting loving God and our neighbour? If not, why not?

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You shall not bear false witness

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Which of these pairs of crime do you think has the greater sentence?

  • Speeding or burgling a house?
  • Plotting to kidnap the Queen or littering? 
  • Telling a lie in Court or murdering someone? 

As you may have guessed, in the first two pairs it’s burglary and plotting to kidnap the Queen which would carry the greater sentences. But when it comes to the third pair, while you probably would get a longer sentence for murdering someone than telling a lie in Court, it’s not that simple. Depending on the circumstances you can get sent to prison for life for lying in Court. 

God in his law also takes truth telling very seriously and therefore he takes lying very seriously too. That is why it’s included in his top ten. After the commands against stealing and lying we get ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.’ 

God himself is a truth-telling God, in fact the bible says he never lies - our eternal salvation depends on it (Titus 1v2).  He wants his people to share his concern for truthful speech. 

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You shall not steal

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In 2015, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company was burgled. Six men abseiled down a lift shaft and using heavy drilling equipment, tunnelled through the 50cm thick vault wall. The burglary was the largest in British legal history, with over £200 million worth of valuables stolen. 

Interestingly, the verb ‘to steal’ means: i) to take something without permission and not return it, and ii) to claim someone else’s work or idea as your own.

Most people have not stolen £200 million but there will be times when all of us have taken something without permission and kept it or dishonestly claimed an idea or someone else’s work as our own.

God does not only say that stealing is a sin against him, here in the ten commandments, but it also demonstrates that we do not love our neighbour as ourselves.

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You shall not commit adultery

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Generally, adultery is still considered wrong in our culture – most people wouldn’t actively encourage someone to go and commit adultery. There is a recognition that the breaking of the significant promises made during marriage is neither loving or good. Most people will know someone who has been deeply affected by adultery and we can all see the wider impact on the communities we’re part of. 

However, in the Bible, adultery isn’t a terrible wrong because of the pain it causes others but also because it’s an offence against God. In the Old Testament after King David has committed adultery he says, “Against you [God], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,” (Psalm 51:4). I don’t think that David is saying he hasn’t wronged Bathsheba (with whom he committed adultery), nor Uriah (her husband) or anyone else involved. What he is acknowledging is that at its heart, adultery is despising God and His word (2 Samuel 12:9). There is a God-ward dimension to adultery which adds to the human pain and suffering it causes.

Secondly, adultery undermines the Gospel and misrepresents God. The unity that is found in marriage is supposed to be a very visual, lived out picture of the relationship between Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:25-33). The indissoluble union, the love, affection, faithfulness and submission that exists between Christ and the church should in some small way be reflected by marriage. A marriage marred by adultery paints a very different picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church. It paints a picture which calls into question everything that is good, comforting, joyful and secure between Jesus and the church.

The commandment to not commit adultery is, at root, a commandment to love other people and to love God, including representing God and the Gospel faithfully. Marriage lived in faithfulness to one another and to God is a wonderful testimony and picture of God’s faithfulness and love to his church. 

For those who know their guilt in this area all too well, Psalm 51 continues with David calling God his salvation, deliverer and the one who can clean him. Adultery is serious, but not unforgivable. In his Psalm, David is crying out to God knowing that God will wash clean those who turn to Him in repentance and faith. David knows that even for those who have committed adultery, God will not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and we know there is always forgiveness at the foot of Jesus’ cross.

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You shall not murder

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It is perhaps the most familiar of the 10 Commandments, yet rarely meditated upon deeply. We find the sixth commandment in Exodus 20v13.

You shall not murder.

 

I think that there are two common attitudes towards this verse:

1) We look to it as evidence that we’re one of life’s ‘good guys’. We may not be perfect but we’re in the right on the important issues. This commandment, coupled with my own lack of murdering, shows that God and I are on essentially the same moral wavelength. (Hopefully he will reward me for this down the line.)

Or

2) We gloss over it entirely. It’s a bit obvious, isn’t it? I guess ‘No murder’ had to be in the commandments somewhere (for completion sake).  But it’s so easy I think I can skip safely on to the next one.

Whichever of these attitudes rings most true for us, I don’t think many of us spend much time contemplating the sixth commandment. But the Bible finds much more depth in this command than we are disposed to. Where we nowadays minimise the application strictly to the taking of life, the Bible teaches an expanded understanding, with both Old and New Testaments making it clear that God had much more in mind. 

For example, Leviticus 19 v 17-18 elaborates

You shall not hate your brother in your heart… you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge… but you shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus teaching on this subject adds:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
— Matthew 5v21-22

Murdering in deed was of course forbidden, but God’s people were expected to put away murderous words too, and even thoughts of ill-will. Moreover, merely refraining from causing/willing harm still falls short of God’s call for active love, mercy and peace-making towards our neighbour.

Thus moods of anger, the bearing of grudges and scorning others with words are all filed under the category of ‘murder’. Suddenly this is not feeling so comfortable. A commandment which appeared to affirm my purity instead shockingly reveals my heart to be murderous. 

We began by suggesting two common attitudes to the sixth commandment. To conclude, here are two possible directions for further reflection:

  1. In directing us to prefer others’ welfare to our own, this commandment is revealing God’s own heart and character. It is perfectly fulfilled by Jesus laying down his life for us.
  2. The commandment challenges us to reconsider habits of deed, word and thought where we are naturally most satisfied with our behaviours. Even here we are very much in need of grace, forgiveness and help to change. 
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