I expect quite a lot of people are planning to commit murder this Christmas. Amongst them will be many Christians.
Sometimes it's the spontaneous anger brought about by the rising tension of the family festivities. Sometimes it's been brewing for a while. The simmering desire to get it off your chest. But for many it will be premeditated, planned murder. Cold. Calculating. Clinical.
I'm not suggesting a festive blood bath. Nor do I think that we should all be checking our turkey to see if amongst the trimmings is a generous dose of arsenic. The murder that I'm talking about is far slower than the slowest acting poisons. It can bring a life time of pain. A physical heart ache that hardens into a bitter resolve.
It's the murder of hate.
Of course we're far too grown up to think that we hate anyone. Hate is what children feel towards brussel sprouts. Grown-ups don't hate people. We just have a set of well argued reasons (in our head anyway!) as to why we no longer associate with them. Why we've ceased to talk. Why they don't even get close to the Christmas card list. If people know how they had treated us then they'd understand!
Sometimes we murder our blood relations. It's not uncommon at funerals to be told by the family that the deceased was loved by everyone. That no one had a bad word to say about him. That he was the life and soul of the party. But then, when asking the innocent question, "Did he have any brothers or sisters?" to receive the answer, "Yes. But we don't mention Jack. They haven't talked for years. Not since that incident at Freda's wedding!"
Sometimes we commit murder with our Christian brothers and sisters. We decide that we've been wronged. And rather than seek reconciliation. We ignore them. Blank them. Move to the other side of the building. And sit self-righteously looking forwards. As though we are concentrating all the more on listening to the message of love and forgiveness being preached.
I think I've been soft on murderers over the years. I've tried to reason with those content to commit relational homicide. The apostle John isn't nearly so timid. He says this:
"Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him." (1 John 3:15)
In other words harbouring bitterness and self-righteous anger towards as a Christian makes you a murderer. More than that says John. It means you are not a Christian at all.
"But I don't hate them! I just don't want to talk to them." Listen to yourself.
"But I don't hate them! They've just hurt me." And whilst telling everyone else, did you try and have a conversation with them about that?
"But I can't sort it out. It will just cause me too much pain!" And John says is the very next verse,
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (1 John 3:16)
Not until you have been crucified for your brother or sister can you claim that you have loved them to the extent that Jesus has loved you.
He did not stand on his rights, so that we could be forgiven. He did not stand on his dignity. He didn't demand to be treated according to his self-righteousness. Even though he was genuinely self-righteous. Out of love, he bore deep intense physical, emotional and spiritual pain, so that we could be reconciled to him.
So why not make the turkey the only thing you murder this Christmas time? And bear a little personal pain to be reconciled to those you're murdering.