The sixth commandment

If, like many people, you’ve watched the four-part series The Sixth Commandment on BBC1 or on iPlayer this month, you can’t have failed to have been moved by the true story of the murders of two pensioners by a manipulative psychopath.

Exploring the deaths of Peter Farquhar and Ann Moore-Martin in Maids Moreton, Buckinghamshire, and the events that unfolded afterwards, the series is extremely thought-provoking.

For me, the glaring issues were loneliness and trust.

The world really works on trust. When trust breaks down, the ripples affect more than those directly involved.

Each of us exercises our trust every day. We trust shops when we buy our groceries, that the price is reasonable and the contents are safe to eat.

We generally trust our government to keep us safe, though this trust has been tested with the recent pollution of our rivers and beaches this last year, among other things.

Closer to home, we trust people in relationships to have our best interests at heart. Most of us are trustworthy and helpful people who hope our kindness will be reciprocated.

So when a snake enters the garden we can quickly fall prey to their deceit and manipulation.

The snake in this story comes in the form of a young charismatic student who is also training for ministry in the church. He preys on his two victims by using their loneliness by becoming something that seemed too good to be true.

That is possibly the most excruciating part of this true story, watching lonely people begin to trust a stranger thinking they have found unexpected love late in life.

We live in a world bombarded with so-called ‘social media’ yet we’ve never been more lonely. Rather than bringing us together, social media has driven us apart. Have you ever met someone for lunch or coffee and sat with them at the table, yet really been alone, as they look at their phone screen rather than you, and tap messages to people who are not present while ignoring you, sitting with them in reality.

There’s nothing social about that. It’s very antisocial if anything.

The technology in everyone’s pocket has made us less connected not more connected. We’re often more aware of those not physically present while ignoring those sitting next to us. And it’s so addictive that we have to be very intentional if we want to change.

People in ministry in the church are often trusted more than others for some reason. Thankfully, most are worthy of that trust. But when a deceiving actor enters the space the damage is massive.

We can’t live life without trust and yet we also must live vigilantly, aware that scammers and deceivers are amongst us.

‘The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy,’ says Jesus, ‘but I have come that you might have life.’

To have faith in God is an act of trust, but let us not confuse God with his representatives. They are, after all, only human like the rest of us.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims in this story who, I’m sure have wrongly reproached themselves for not doing more. But how could anyone have known the extent of the evil that was among them?

So we’re left with this truth that we must still trust others to live in society but also be inquisitive and question things, especially things that seem too good to be true. And maybe we should switch off our phones completely, when we meet with friends, and be fully present, if we want to avoid spreading more loneliness.

The series is available on BBC iPlayer here: