“Bang! Bang! You’re dead!”
So out children play; and so we teach them to play.
But death is no plaything. And although killing has become an American pastime, death is too awful in itself to be the matter wherewith we amuse ourselves; and death is God’s means of punishing the sinner.
Who thinks of that today? In our atheistic world who gives any thought to the truth that killing is God’s prerogative and that it expresses the fierceness of His holy wrath against sin? The murderer is lauded as a hero, and death is a natural enemy of man which he fights in hospitals and with antibiotics, surgical tools and oxygen tents.
Whoever thinks today that to conquer death and disease that leads to death a change of our legal status before God must be realized? Who looks to the cross for deliverance from death? Men will look to Him Who died on that cross for social improvement. They will quote His “Golden Rule” even while they spurn His command, “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of God shall give unto you: for Him hath the Father sealed.” John 6:27. And they will kill each other to get that bread that perisheth. They will perish striving for the bread that perisheth and bar their fellowmen from the shop by their godless unions, and still hail this Christ as The Great Social Reformer! Were He to return to this world and apply for a job in one of our closed shops, He would be refused and called a scab! Yea, they would quote His own words and hurl them in His teeth and kill Him all over again. He would be accused of hypocrisy and fraud. Would He, as He surely would, refuse to join them in their riots and murders and coercion and cruelty, they would accuse Him of not living up to those words of that “Great Social Reformer” Who said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28. And men would laud them for killing Him all over again.
But we said, and we mean every word of it, that killing is an American pastime. No, that does not mean that we all practice murder with gun and knife or poison and gas. There surely is plenty of that in our land. The murderer is bold in our land today. And he will become bolder because he is defended and the victim and his relatives are forgotten as far as justice is concerned. Killing in cold blooded murder is not looked upon any more as murder, but as the actions of an insane mind. “Envy, hatred, anger and desire of revenge,” which the Heidelberg Catechism present as the causes of murder, are simply symptoms of a “sick” mind. There is no such thing as sin anymore. There are social injustices and crimes against society, but they are due to mental disturbances rather than spiritual depravity. Where is Evolution? The beast kills in cold blood. We expect it from him. Has the man who “evolved” out of this class of killers to become a social being somehow begun to devolve so that he is on the way back to becoming an ape through all the monkey business of mental quirks and temporary insanity?
Sin may by the sinner be ruled out, but it is still there to plague him. And although he may rule that sin out and therefore have no spiritual use for that cross of Christ, these sins will still continue to be in the world in increasing intensity and with tragic results for him. What is more, today we are amusing ourselves with death on every side. Some years ago, perhaps as many as twenty, we wrote in this department about the folly of trying to teach our children, “Thou shalt not kill” and then buy them for Christmas or for their birthdays toy guns so that they can run around and say, “Bang! Bang! You’re dead!” Shall we teach them to amuse themselves with death? Is it after all a plaything? But since the day that we wrote those lines — and how time flies and sin develops ! —we have entered the television age when every night, and perhaps as a dessert upon a daytime meal of murder, in countless numbers even of covenant homes, killing is sought for amusement! We create an appetite —the world does —for murder, and then call our children insane when they act according to that appetite! But God is not mocked; and what we sow we also reap.
A pastime, according to Webster is “that which amuses or makes time pass agreeably; diversion; recreation.” How awful! no matter which of the three variations of meaning you choose. Amuse ourselves with death? Seek God’s curse upon mankind for diversion? Diversion from what? Seek amore awful degree of the curse for the phase that is bothering us at the moment? Refresh our spirits with death? When under the curse we languish and suffer, shall we seek that which the curse ultimately brings to every man here below for a reviving of our souls? Shall we play with death?
But these are the plays on television and in the movie that get the highest rating. Murder and adultery form the warp and woof of all the entertainment of the world, as even the titles will show. Walk down an aisle where the paperback books are lined up—hundreds of them. Scan the titles and observe the pictures. You will see what entertains America. Look for only a few moments in the TV and Radio sections of department stores where there are a dozen or more television sets on at a time with several programs. You see murder and sexuality in full color. And what was that written by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans? “Not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” The heroes of the world today are murderers, filthy, adulterous entertainers. Instead of condemning all this playing with murder, instead of pointing out the evil of it all to their children, many parents sit down with their children to enjoy it and to converse with them about these heroes of the world instead of Scripture’s “heroes of faith.”
But, as we wrote, killing is God’s prerogative, and it is His means of punishing the sinner. For that reason not all killing is breaking the fifth commandment. He has given the sword to the authorities to wield in His name. Killing our enemies is always sin; but there are times when we must kill His enemies in His name or even in self-defense. And we cannot honestly be conscientious objectors and so avoid the draft. Even though we may think that the war is unjust and unnecessary, that is not a judgment we may make in order to disobey the authorities who demand our services. The hangman may in his heart believe that the prisoner is not guilty; but he must execute the man because the authorities have found that man guilty. God has not given to the subjects the right to decide for the king that the war is unjust and so refuse to obey. If the war is unjust, the guilt of it will be that of the authorities who had declared it and insist on it. The soldier in the field who kills at his government’s command is not guilty of that sin. But let that soldier beware lest he kill in personal revenge. He sees his buddies killed and ventures forth to see how many of the enemy he can kill in retaliation. God keep our covenant young men on the battlefield from hatred of their own enemies. And may He give them grace to help the wounded, feed the hungry and conduct themselves as soldiers of the cross as well as soldiers of our land.
But here at home as well, how often are we not careless with the neighbour’s life? We see danger and avoid it for ourselves. But who thinks today of stopping and removing from the highway the obstacle we barely avoided in the dark, so that the next car will not suffer the tragedy we just escaped? No, today, it is every man for himself. We are not our brother’s keeper, according to modern thinking. We want to advance; and so we do not warn the man with whom we compete of the pitfalls and dangers. Let him learn for himself; and to tell him and warn him might cost us that which we covet. And the trouble is that we do not covet righteousness. We are not first of all and principally interested in being pleasing in God’s sight. We are not only grammatically incorrect but also ethically wrong when our slogan is — as it usually is — “Me First !” Paul tells us to esteem others better than self. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those that hate us. And although we are supposed to be a civilized people, and with our lips we at one time say that we hate war and decry violence and bloodshed, we at the same time encourage our children in what ought to be friendly competitive games of sport and sportsmanship to cheer on their teams with such awful cries as “Clobber Them! Butcher Them! Kill ‘Em! Slay Them and Mow Them Down!” The game of childhood days that requires a “‘Bang! Bang! You’re Dead!” takes on a far more vicious form in later days, and when then these same children get into the business world there simply is no mercy, compassion at all; and you cannot find the blessed peacemakers but bitter rivals!
In the world you cannot and you must not expect anything different. You must expect hatred among individuals and nations to increase. It is utterly foolish to believe that a malignant tumor left alone is going to improve the body. If not cut out the cancer will destroy the whole body as it continues to grow. God has no intention of performing that surgery upon the world. He intends to come with a judgment day to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children who continue in that way and develop that evil much further. And when Jesus said that one of the signs of His return to execute this judgment is war and rumors of wars, He did not mean false rumors or simply empty rumors of what actually was not taking place. He means that wars and fighting and killings would increase toward the end of time as sin develops and as the way is prepared for the man of sin. The world knows not how to do good to its enemies, for the world does not know how to do good unto the living God, Whom they rate as their principle enemy! Not loving Him, they cannot love the neighbour, and surely not the troublesome neighbour who becomes their enemy.
But in the church we are taught to expect it and to practice it ourselves. Paul writes it so beautifully in Romans 12:19-20, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” And he concludes with this sound advice in the next verse, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.'”
Of course it must be done with discretion. Many of the enemy that are in need of food you have to give food in the literal sense; and many who are thirsty may not be given the drink that they desire. Money would simply be used for anything but the food that is needed. It may be that clothing has to be purchased for the poor enemy, or else arrangements made to pay for what he selects when sizes are not known. But the underlying principle is do good.
Doing good is doing that which God considers to be good. It is doing His will. It is keeping His commandment: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself! And it is then also in love rebuking him for his sins and enmity against the living God. Material good that you may bestow upon him has but temporary value for the flesh. Be not stingy with spiritual exhortation and instruction. If God has blessed you with more of this earth’s goods than that enemy who is in want, feed him with bread. But since God has blessed you with spiritual treasures and the knowledge of the truth and that precious gift of faith, speak to the neighbor of these things spiritual. You may not take from him his natural life, but you have a calling to speak to him about his spiritual death. A witness of the God Who saved you from your spiritual death you must always be. Do good then to the enemy that despitefully uses you with material gifts; but do him spiritual good as well by testifying of the salvation God’s enemies have in Christ. Let your love of God shine forth and speak to the enemy of God’s love for you. The enemy may reject it all, but you have walked in love towards God as one who lives in His fear.