Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13
This is the first of the commandments between man and man. It is pretty simple. Its literal meaning is a ban on killing.
But because we kill most of our food meat, obviously, but also vegetables and grains – it needs a little interpretation. And the simplicity of this commandment takes another hit when we think of issues of the lawful taking of human life – self-defence, capital punishment or warfare. And modern issues of euthanasia and the like also raise thorny ethical issues.
A full discussion of these issues would make this week’s Message impossibly long, however I hope we can cut things short by agreeing that respect for all life, and human life in particular, is covered by this commandment.
Leon MacLaren, the founder of the School, had a very interesting take on this commandment. He said that one of the inner meanings of killing had to do with cutting someone off from themselves; creating a situation by words or actions where someone was put into a state of forgetfulness of their higher, pure Self.
One example of this form of killing which he gave was, as he termed it, holding someone’s past against them . By which he meant holding onto resentment or maintaining a grudge because of someone’s past misdeeds. He was very clear that forgiveness meant giving someone the space to change, and that this was like bestowing life on them.