Thou shalt not kill

The logic of ‘thou shalt not kill’ (Exodus 20:13) can be thought to run deeper in the context of Christianity. To ‘kill’ someone is to harbour negative emotions towards them (see Matthew 5:21, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”).

The better response is to let go of those negative emotions (‘forgive those who have trespassed against you’) and then to express goodwill or love towards the object of those emotions instead (‘love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you’).

One prayer format for this is fairly simple. The first thing is to find a moment in the day when you will have several minutes where you won’t be interrupted, and relax and quiet your mind. Reach out to God. Then, with a specific person or situation in mind,

  1. Let go of any negative emotions that come up with regard to a specific person or situation. This is literally to ‘forgive’, or let go. The important thing here is to feel this letting go.
  2. Replace that with goodwill or love towards that person. Again, it is important to actually feel this love or goodwill towards the person. See harmony, good, and so on, for this person.
  3. Now see harmony, good, love, and so on, for the situation in general.

In some cases, doing this once is sufficient. The negative emotions are released, and replaced with better ones. In some cases, however, it requires repetition. When Jesus was asked how many times one ought to forgive, he said ‘7 and 70’.