We live daily under a culture and epidemic of violence. We were reminded again this weekend of this sad fact as we learned a total of 29 people were killed and dozens more injured in two senseless acts of mass violence.
Violence in our hearts that manifests itself in heinous outwardly expressions has been part of our fallen, sinful condition since the beginning, as we are remind in Gen. 6:11, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence.“
Scripture tells us over and over again that God detests violence, particularly in the Old Testament. Here are just a few examples:
– (God) said to me, “Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the people of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger? – Ezekiel 8:17
– Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. – Obadiah 1:10
– But Egypt will be desolate, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood. – Joel 3:19
– “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. – Gen. 9:6
Christians – those who have received the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ – should stand on the forefront of the movement not only against senseless violence, but also how we respond to it. Unfortunately, our reaction tends to want to meet violence with more violence. Most of us won’t react by taking the life of another, but the violence present in our hearts definitely comes out through our words and other methods.
Gospel-bearers, disciples, those called to reflect God’s Kingdom, are advised time and time again in the New Testament how to respond to these situations. Unfortunately, this is also a hard pill for many to swallow.
Here’s the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the church in Rome:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. ”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Rom. 12:17-21
We can easily see how Paul’s words mirror those of Jesus, especially those espoused within the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
We are called to be models of Christ in our resistance to violence and cruelty, but also by how we respond to violent circumstances.
Prayer is the starting point. We pray for victims of violence. We pray for perpetrators and would-be perpetrators, and we pray for the strength and courage to be bold in our speech and actions in our stances against violence of any sort.
What would our churches and communities look like if we, as disciples of Christ, fervently sought to reflect Jesus amidst our current epidemic of violence?
I have to believe that although it probably wouldn’t end the problem, it would undoubtedly have a major impact.
It is my prayer that we, as the Body of Christ, will first commit to seeking God’s help in putting an end to any propensity we may have towards violence, both in our hearts and any outward expressions of it – including our speech.
May God use us in serving Him as ambassadors of love and reconciliation in a world plagued by evil.