Getting Away With Murder (3 Nephi 6)
In 3 Nephi 6, with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ drawing nearer, efforts intensify to reach out to the sinful people of the Nephite community:
"There began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth … preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people, and testifying unto them concerning the redemption which the Lord would make for his people." (3 Nephi 6:20)
Not surprisingly, the sinful people do not receive this message well, becoming "exceeding angry because of those who testified of these things" (verse 21). It turns out that some number of these people are associated with the legal profession — lawyers and judges — and they actually use their positions to arrest many of those who are preaching God's message and then arrange for them to illegally be put to death.
The crimes of these lawyers and judges do come to light, but they call upon their friends and relatives in the legal community who all work together "to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law" (verse 29).
So, because the guilty people had a special arrangement with the people who determined the punishment, they got away with murder.
Three years later, in Jerusalem, a man named Barabbas was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. However, the governor gave the people the opportunity to choose to free either Barabbas or Jesus Christ — and the people chose to free Barabbas.
So, because of a special arrangement with the people who determined the punishment — and because Jesus died in his place — a guilty man got away with murder.
Using a couple of verses from the Book of James, I can make a case that you and I have gotten away with murder as well:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law." (James 2:10-11)
As far as God is concerned, there is no degree of sin. When people stand before God at the end of their lives, the punishment for one sin will be the same as the punishment for any other. So, if we have committed any sin at all, we are, in essence, guilty of them all, including murder. And what's the punishment? As the Apostle Paul writes, "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). In this case, spiritual death.
Of course, we shouldn't take this as encouragement to go out and start killing people (thinking if I'm guilty of one sin, then I may as well be guilty of them all). Different crimes carry different punishments in this life, and, although all carry the same ultimate punishment from God, some sins are harder to get forgiveness for. As Alma taught, "whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness" (Alma 39:6).
So, why are we able to get away with "murder"? Because we have our own special arrangement with the one who determines the punishment. Similar to what happened to Barabbas in a physical sense, Jesus Christ died in our place and took the punishment for us. When we gave our lives to the Lord through baptism, each of our sins was erased in God's eyes, whether it was murder or anything that carries an equivalent punishment. When we endure to the end, the judgment before God won't consist of punishment; instead, we will be welcomed into His heavenly kingdom because of our arrangement with his Son, Jesus Christ.
As we live the remainder of our lives on earth, let's allow the appreciation for what the Lord has done — along with the Holy Ghost within us — to inspire us to do our best to live a murder-free life. It would be inappropriate to go out and commit more sins just because we think we can "get away with it."
In case we don't fully appreciate what the Lord has done, let's realize that there will be people who don't give their lives to Christ and will receive an eternal punishment from God for actions that are no different than things we have done in our own lives. When we think about it that way, we can appreciate that, because of Jesus Christ, we are getting away with "murder." Praise God for His mercy!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.