Thoughts on Violence

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” Genesis 6:11

The latest senseless act of violence to hit the news has been the horrific story of 39 year old Darrell Brooks driving an SUV through a crowded Christmas parade in Wisconsin, killing 6 people and wounding many more on November 21, 2021. What makes this crime all the more disturbing is that the man appears to have a history of violent crimes, some as recent as this month.

Thoughtful Americans are, no doubt, wondering if we are becoming a more violent nation. This is likely not an easy question to answer. Violence takes on many forms, and is not always fatal, as it was for the 6 victims in Wisconsin. Individual cases are presented by the media in a fashion intended to stir emotion and capture attention, at least in part to drive up ratings. If it bleeds, it leads…or so they say. At any rate, I don’t think escalating violence is the worst thing happening in America right now.

There are worse things than violence in America right now. I say that, in part, because this world has almost always been a violent place. Murder, and his mother, Hatred, have been around a long time. As Moses records in Genesis 6:11 “the earth was filled with violence.” Violence, then, isn’t so surprising.

The bigger problem with respect to violence in America is that we don’t understand it. What I mean is that we don’t know what violence even is. When is the last time we heard the news media give a good definition of violence for us? Who is the last politician you recall providing the public with the moral framework within which we learn to see the true evil of malevolent violence? We have vague and fuzzy notions about violence. We don’t seem to be bothered with violence in our entertainment. And we virtually applaud violence when those committing it support our own cause. We don’t like it when it comes across our own doorstep for sure. But we are ready to wink at it in virtually any other setting. Truth be told we aren’t really sure what makes the violence we disapprove of so bad.

And the reason we don’t understand violence is, I submit, that we have lost a Biblical worldview. Bible readers know that violence isn’t actually the problem. Misdirected violence is. Jesus said in Matthew 11:12 that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” There is such a thing as holy violence. There is type of violence that we actually need more of, not less, in America. When we put on the armor of God and go to war with our own sin, we are engaged in a type of violence approved by God. This is that “good warfare (1 Tim 1:18)” of which Paul spoke. However, when we refuse to restrain our sinful desires such as selfishness, greed, vengeance, or anger…sinful violence erupts.

Violence isn’t the problem in America. Sinful violence is. Violence that arises from hatred of others is sinful violence. Violence that arises from impatience, intemperance, and discontentment is sinful violence. Violence that takes innocent lives is sinful violence. But violent effort to subdue our sin, with the help of God’s Spirit, is a violence we need more of. Violent, strong, relentless, lawful, God-fearing energy exerted toward the salvation of our own souls and those of others…that is the type of noble violence that would lead to peace and purity in our nation and our souls. We should pray for Darrell Brooks, and for the families of his victims. Pray for America too, that we would once again grow to understand violence the way God intends in His Word.

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