• Jesus Loves Murderers

16,238.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that's the number of homicides that occurred in the United States in 2011.1 As alarming as that number is, for some cities the homicide rate decreased in 2013. The FBI estimated the number of murders in 2013 at 14,196.2

Murder is clearly tragic for the victim, but the effects of murder on the victim's loved ones are equally disheartening.

Reporter Brandy Zadrozny stated, ''From New York to Los Angeles, police departments are touting big drops in their murder rate—and for good reason. If the country's largest and most historically violent cities are any marker, the U.S. is on track to have one of the lowest murder rates in four decades, continuing a steady decline in overall violent crime."3

To a certain extent, statistics like these are encouraging—a drop in murders is always a good thing. But the truth is even one murder is too many, particularly here in the United States, where we have virtually the highest murder rate in the developed world.4

Murder is a sin that humanity has dealt with since its earliest days. Genesis 4 records the first murder: Cain killed his brother, Abel. From that time forward, murder has been a constant reality. By the time Moses received the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, murder was codified as an abomination to God: "You shall not murder" (v. 13).

Murder is clearly tragic for the victim, but the effects of murder on the victim's loved ones are equally disheartening.

Marital and family therapist Connie Saindon wrote, "After a murder, the family unit undergoes permanent changes that are difficult for the surviving members to accept. As each member of the family struggles with their own pain and grief, being a source of emotional support and comfort to other members in the family network can be problematic. Not only must each member navigate their feelings of loss of their loved one; they must also deal with the way they died. Familial roles undergo major transformations; family members' relationship will face challenges for reconstruction. The murder may trigger other types of losses a family has had that may need to be reprocessed. No other experience has prepared the family or its members with how to deal with homicide. There is a sudden uninvited intrusion in their lives that changes their existence from private to public."5

According to Saindon, these unknowns can put family members at risk, especially if they have already been struggling with issues like suicide, depression, or substance abuse. "There is abundant clinical evidence indicating that following a homicidal death, family members are at risk for developing sustained and dysfunctional psychological reactions. And since the nearly 30,000 homicides annually in the United States affect between 120,000 and 240,000 relatives and other survivors, the magnitude of these numbers suggests that homicidal bereavement represents a major public health problem."6

As troubling as that information is concerning murder and its effects, through Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and forgiveness, those who have suffered a loss due to murder can be healed, find hope, and—incredible as it sounds—find a way to forgive the murderer. Jesus paid the price for us all—murderers included.

Before Cain killed Abel, God counseled Cain, saying, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (Genesis 4:7). It was a warning Cain did not take to heart. But it's also a warning to those who have lost a loved one: guard your hearts. That's where murder starts, as Jesus made clear.7 As you deal with your pain, know that God loves you and is near to you. And remember, Jesus loves murderers, too.

As hard as it is to accept, Jesus can forgive a murderer. Even one of the most heinous murderers of the past century, serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, can receive forgiveness. According to many sources, he did.8

Jesus' sacrifice is greater than the greatest sin, and His forgiveness is boundless.

Define

In God's commandment "You shall not kill," the word for kill (also translated murder) is ratsach, and it covers everything from premeditated murder to accidental killing to vengeance. According to Dictionary.com, murder is "the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law."9 The Merriam-Webster Dictionary adds the stipulation that the act is done with "malice aforethought."10

Legal definitions of murder are more complex and depend on circumstances as well as intent. Regardless, murder is and has been a serious crime around the world throughout human history. It goes beyond the impact on the life of one individual, including repercussions that affect the family, friends, and community of both the murdered and the murderer.

Discover

Murder goes against the heart of God's first gift to all of us: life. Even before He gave Moses the overt commandment not to kill, it was clear that God valued life and wanted us to do the same. Here are some Bible verses that affirm God's high regard for life and describe the destructive power of murder.

  • "Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God ​​He made man" (Genesis 9:5-6).
  • "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).
  • "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22).
  • "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).
  • "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. ​​I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well" (Psalm 139:13-14).
  • "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
  • "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
  • "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Romans 12:19, ESV).

Develop

When reaching out to someone whose life has been impacted by murder, show them the LOVE of Christ:

L—Listen to people. Make a sincere effort to get to know them and their situation.
O—Observe their life. Where are they coming from—emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? The root of the issue will obviously center on the loss they have experienced, but there will be other emotions affecting them, too. Ask yourself, How can I assist them?
V—Voice God's truth. What does the Bible teach concerning the situation? In the case of a murder, it's safe to assume that the person affected knows that God is against murder. However, make sure they know what the Bible has to say about mercy, taking vengeance, anger, and God's great, healing love.
E—Embrace them with the love of God in Christ. If possible, empathize based on shared experiences, but keep Jesus the focus of your conversation and outreach.

Jesus loves those affected by murder. Will you?

 

 

 

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Assault or Homicide," July 14, 2014, accessed 1/12/15.

2 FBI, "Crime Statistics for 2013 Released," November 10, 2014, accessed 1/12/15.

3 Brandy Zadrozny, "The Year in Murder: 2013 Marks a Historic Low for Many Cities," January 1, 2014, accessed 1/12/15.

4 Agence France-Presse, "U.S. murder rate higher than nearly all other developed countries: FBI data," September 16, 2013, accessed 1/12/15.

5 Connie Saindon, "The Impact of Homicide on Families," accessed 1/12/15.

6 Ibid.

7 See Matthew 5:21-22.

8 Belinda Elliott, "Saving a Serial Killer," accessed 1/12/15.

9 Dictionary.com, "Murder," accessed 1/12/15.

10 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Murder," accessed 1/12/15.