Preserving Life and Praying For Life

You shall not murder
— Exodus 20:13

The hurricane turned tropical storm turned depression has come and gone, and praise God for the minimal damage it has seemed to cause in our neck of the woods! Seeing some of the footage from the coast and other parts of North Carolina stirs me into prayer for physical safety and needs to be met in this week after the storm—when rivers are still rising from all the rain and surge! I hope you will join me in those prayers.

Closer to home, the Session prayerfully chose to cancel our Sunday worship, and I am glad they did! I didn’t have to drive three minutes Sunday morning before I came across a deputy sheriff trying to move a tree off the road. While I was helping him, he told me they were getting report after report of trees on roads. Thinking of our congregation’s spread out nature, I was glad we did not have people coming into town.

I thought I’d take this week’s Postscripts to answer the question: how do you decide to cancel church due to inclement weather? An excellent way to answer this question is the sixth commandment test: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Hopefully y’all are thinking a step ahead and assuming the Session’s desire is not to murder anyone, so what could the test be? That’s where that section of the Westminster Larger Catechism comes into play. As an ARP minister, I believe the Bible to be best summarized in the documents that came from an assembly of believing men at Westminster in the seventeenth century (1600s). Here is one piece of it: 

What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the Ten Commandments?

That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded. (WLC Q&A 99.4a)

Put into context of the sixth commandment, the sin forbidden is murder. And though Jesus reveals the spiritual and emotional depth of this commandment in Matthew 5, it does not negate the reality that physical murder is forbidden. What, then, is the opposite duty of murder? Quoting the WLC again, the duties of the sixth commandment are “all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others” (WLC A135).

So the sixth commandment test is this: will we put our people in undue danger through an action (or inaction)? This is where the Session began to weigh the decision for church services on Sunday. In order to preserve life, the Session chose to cancel church services. God’s Word really informs how we live and make decisions, and we see this because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s saving, redeeming, and illuminating power in our lives. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:17, 18). The most perfect gift is God himself revealed to us in Jesus Christ—our God, savior, and king! And from him flows a multitude of blessings—including the Word of Truth. May the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, and even as we see decisions about preserving life, may we be stirred into fervent prayer for all those severely effected by this storm.