The Sixth Commandment is short and does not allow for any variance from it. You will notice that the wording of this translation of the Bible is a little different from the older versions which say, “Thou shall not kill.” What is the difference in the two words? The difference seems to be very slight, but perhaps is in accordance with Jesus’s teaching of the responsibility of motive. Thou shall not kill is much more limiting than thou shall not murder, for this says to us that our motive is primarily the difference.
We might say right here that we have much more freedom if we accept this newer translation, for it would seem to indicate that we can be excused from killing if we do not intend to kill. Do you accept this more modern meaning? No, this is not the intent of this more modern translation, for we would prefer to believe that if it is our motive that counts, then to not commit murder means that we have a responsibility for other acts, and acts of other people that result in the killing of people. If this is so then, our responsibility for our fellow man extends a long way out.
We might divide our responsibility into several groups in order to facilitate our discussion. The first of these is war. Many people in a war are responsible for the killing of a great many people. There are always a sizable number of conscientious objectors in our country who will not bear arms, and they are usually assigned to a non-combatant organization such as the medical service. There are a lot more people who, being Christian, cannot reconcile their religion with war and spend a great deal of time in trying to reconcile the two. And then there are the people who do not make any objection to war and its killing.
Let’s take these groups up one by one. What is your opinion about the conscientious objector? We must look up to him for standing up for his ideals. Shall we be ashamed of ourselves for not standing up like he does? Should each Christian be a conscientious objector?
What about the person who doesn’t think a second time about killing in a war? Is he very far up the social and biological ladder? Isn’t he pretty close to animal life that has no mind or soul or feeling of responsibility for a fellow human? Do you know of anyone like this or think you know of someone?
What about the conscientious Christian who finds himself in the armed forces and is faced with the problem of killing a fellow human? Is there any difference in war now where many are killed by remote action instead of by direct force? What is the responsibility of a Christian who, being in the army, is faced with the act of killing a fellow human? What is the responsibility of those who work in factories making ammunition?