A Christian Response to a Violent World
The recent, tragic shooting in Aurora, CO at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, is an event which calls for prayer, lament, and comfort to be extended to the victims and their families. It is a national tragedy, much like 9/11, and thus calls for a national lament. Such national laments are found in the Psalms, such as Psalm 79, in which the Psalmist laments the destruction of Jerusalem. This Sunday we will be reading a portion of Psalm 79 during our worship to give voice to this national tragedy.
The shooting in Aurora also gives rise to reflection upon the seeming rise of violence in our society and what our response ought to be as individual Christians and as a church.
A biblical study of violence is revealing, even just a word study. Right away, it is noted that the reason that God destroys Noah's world is violence: "11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth (Gen. 6:11-13) This surely should give pause to any society that is violent. Many, in fact, believe, that God's judgment will follow violent societies/nations, leading to many living in difficult times (such as David Lipscomb in the Civil War) to have an apocalyptic worldview.
- Violence is an act of injustice (Job 19:7).
- The wicked "love violence" (Ps. 11:5).
- Violence is linked to "strife" (55:9), "oppression" (Ps. 72:14), "pride" (Ps. 73:6), unfaithfulness (Prov. 13:2), war (Isa. 42:25), and acts against the innocent (Isa. 53:9).
- A land without violence marks the future world where God's rule is acknowledged and followed (60:18).
- Jeremiah 22:3 is a good summary of who violence should not be directed against: "This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place" (Jer. 22:3).
- Violence arouses the anger of God, and causes the land to be stripped (Ezek. 8:17, 12:19).
- Nineveh was called upon to give up its violence (Jn. 3:8).
- Habakkuk is a lament against God not acting against the violence done to God's people.
- Zepheniah speaks of priests who profane the sanctuary of God and do violence to the law (Zeph. 3:4).
- Divorce is an act of violence. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty (Mal. 2:16).
- Mt. 11:12 is a difficult passage on the kingdom of heaven and violence, but seems to be saying that violent people have always sought to violate God's kingdom shalom (peace).
- Paul was subjected to the violence of a mob (Acts 21:35).
- Elders are called to not be violent, but gentle (1 Tim. 3:3).
- Revelation speaks of Babylon being destroyed with violence (Rev. 18:21).
From these passages and others, it would seem that violence is the bringing of hurt or destruction into the lives of others--often to those who are innocent, defenseless or marginalized. This destruction can be physical, emotional, or spiritual, and is motivated by or linked to a degrading society, godlessness, strife, oppression, pride, unfaithfulness, and war. Natural violence is a result of sin entering into the world (Gen 3), and Satan sometimes uses these forces (Job).
Thus, there are all kinds of violence in the world today, including:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual Abuse (so vividly exhibited in the Sandusky/Penn State Sexual Abuse scandal)
- Verbal abuse
- Gossip (which is violence to one's reputation, self-esteem)
- Control of others
- Divorce - click here for a great article on this from John Mark Hicks
- Cancer, disease, and death
- Division in a church
- Theft, rape, murder
This is the world in which we live in--a violent world. In contrast, violence is not found in God's kingdom, and it is a violation of kingdom values. God uses violence at times in a fallen world to deal out punishment against evildoers, and he even uses the ultimate violent act--crucifixion--to save the world.
So, how should Christians respond to this violent world? In several ways.
- First, we should not participate in violence or imitate the violent ways around us. Obviously, physical abuse is totally out of the question for a person of God. But so too is verbal abuse. We must not name call, belittle, or be harsh with our spouse or children. We should not be stirring up anger and hatred on Facebook or in the office. We should be careful about the emails that we send out and the words that we say. Far too many political comments appear unkind and violent, stirring up hatred and anger. We should look for gentleness and an utter lack of violence in our church leaders--which includes how they talk and act to the flock and to one another.
- Second, we should be sources of healing for those who have suffered violence. And in this broken world, this is virtually everyone around us to some extent or another. We cannot heal every person. But we can be a healer of those around us. Our co-workers. Our family members. Churches can heal their communities. How do we provide this healing? Through love, gentleness, kindness, all the rest of the fruit of the spirit, counseling, warmth, encouragement.
- Third, we should be proactive in preventing violence by sharing Christ with the world. I remember in one of my family life classes learning that one man had been the cause of 250 crimes/violent acts done through his family. But in the same way, if we can reach one person for Christ, this can have a positive effect down through the generations for that family, resulting in 250 or more blessings. Christ is the only hope for our violent world. If we want to save it, we can start by sharing Christ with our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers--one person at a time.
What do you think is the cause of all of the violence in the world today? Are we more violent today than in previous generations? What other forms of violence can you think of? Which of the above had you not thought of as being violence before?