An aggressive and deliberate beetle attack nearly destroyed a couple of my rose bushes last summer. With branches stripped of leaves, buds and blooms, their demise appeared imminent.

Weeks of careful spraying and tending helped them hang on. Meticulous covering, uncovering and re-covering during the winter months protected them from the cold.

Amazingly, they bounced back this spring and summer, healthier than ever. Now thriving with long stems full of leaves, thorns, buds and blooms, they are everything rose bushes should be.

Intentional insect attacks are not the only threat to my roses. Indifference is an equally potent enemy. Without regular watering, weeding, mulching, fertilizing and pruning, they would shrivel up and die. They need protection, but they also need nurturing and enriching. That combination ensures that their existence is neither diminished nor destroyed.

In a similar way, it takes more than a promise not to murder someone to honor the spirit of the sixth commandment. “You shall not murder,” coupled with Jesus’ teaching and example, is a call to complete stewardship of God’s gift of life.

It’s more than avoiding violent acts that destroy life. It also means avoiding thoughtless words and careless actions that wound another’s pride, destroy self-esteem and diminish the quality of life.

Unfortunately, we do this to each other fairly regularly: parents to children; children to parents; spouses, friends and coworkers to each other. Even more often, we do it to those who are marginalized and live in society’s shadows, barely visible and rarely vocal. Sometimes it’s what we do; often it’s what we fail to do.

Honoring the spirit of this commandment means that we will not turn away indifferently from appalling conditions that leave others without proper health care, nutrition and housing. It means that we will proactively work toward enhancing the lives of the voiceless and powerless, pushing for reforms to systems until every life receives the honor and dignity it deserves.

It means that we will keep our wants and desires in check and avoid the greed of accumulating wealth and hoarding resources to the point that others we could help still lack what they need.

Is it possible that we are guilty of contributing to the diminished lives of others not by violent acts but by indifference?

There’s more than one way to break a commandment.

Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.

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