The Christian and Violence
"President Killed By Sniper In Dallas"
"Kennedy Shot In Hotel By Arab Extremist"
"Wallace Gunned Down In Maryland Crowd"
"King Murdered In Memphis"
"Manson Cult Follower Attempts To Take Ford's Life"
"Hijacking Ends In Three Deaths"
"Husband Kills Family And Self"
How long could we go on with this bloody litany from the front pages of our daily newspapers? Assassinations, race riots, looting, burning, college student revolts, bombed churches, airports, banks, homes, and public buildings. From 1963 to 1968 there were at least 370 civil rights demonstrations involving more than a million people, and more than 80 counter-demonstrations in opposition to civil rights and school integration. There have been riots and civil disorder in every major city in America. The demonstrations against the war in Asia touched every state campus in the U.S., and involved hundreds of thousands of students across the nation. Mass murders, senseless violent crime, and rape have increased at an alarming rate. The annual sale of hand guns is up by 500 9i since ten years ago. There have been more deaths from handguns in the U.S. in its history than all the combined deaths of all involved combatants in all of the wars the U.S. has ever fought. All major violent crimes: murder, forcible rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault etc. are rising out of all proportion to our population.
The number of subversive and extremist organizations that advocate violence has increased dramatically in the past ten years. These organizations strive in every way possible to disrupt law and order. They breed hatred and bigotry which feed violence. The left wing political violence groups, like the SDS, have led violence on college campuses and into our political processes. Extremist reactionary groups like the Klan, SNCC, RAM and others have advocated and used violence to further their bigotry.
People have lost respect for law and authority because of corruption, and prejudicial enforcement of the law. The media has encouraged violence by its glorification of violence and those who resort to violence. At times it seems as though we are surrounded by violence.
Some Responses Made by Christians
Christians have made some bad choices when it comes to dealing with violence. Many have purchased weapons and have full intent to use them if threatened in any way. The homes of some followers of the Prince of Peace look like armed camps, festooned with firearms of all descriptions, and sufficient ammunition to fuel a short war. Guns beside the bed, under the pillow, in the glove compartment in the car, in a rack in the truck, in the desk at work reflect brethren desperately afraid of what men may do to them. Some, driven to the point of paranoia, have installed elaborate burglar alarm systems costing thousands of dollars, barred windows, hired killer dogs, and erected high fences. This close contact with violence has prompted some to lose their spiritual bearings. Did you ever hear the comments made by some brethren at the assassination of Kennedy and King? These brethren actually gave "God-speed" to the bloody murder of these men with young families as if it were a deed approved by God. God does not approve murder-even of sinners.
What Can I Do?
We live in the midst of a wicked and perverse world. Violence will be a part of our reality as long as we remain on this earth. Violence did not start with the race riots of the sixties. The history of the U.S. has been checkered since its beginning with violence-since the first slaughter of the innocent Indians and their enforced slavery by Columbus and those who followed him. The wilderness was taken from the aborigines by force, the beginnings of the U.S. were bred in violence, civil war, riots, the wild west, are all part of a long history of violence. The world of man began with the violent murder of the righteous by the wicked (Gen. 4).
The presence of violence has always been a spectre upon creation. As long as there is a devil and wicked men, there will be bloody hands. We will not preserve ourselves by might and weaponry, but by the care and providence of God. We may decry men's wicked deeds; notwithstanding, our faith must not stand in ourselves, but in God. "O Lord God of vengeance; O Lord to whom vengeance belongeth, shine forth! Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud. Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they utter and speak hard things? And all the workers of iniquity boast themselves? They break in pieces thy people, O Lord, and afflict throe heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall he not correct? He that teachest man knowledge, shall he not know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Blessed is the man whom thou chasteneth, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law; that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright of heart shall follow it. Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had quickly dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. But the Lord is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness, yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off" (Psa. 94).
To the Christian with little faith this answer does not provide an answer. But, it is the only answer God gives. The authority of law-its institution, interpretation, and application-belongs to government (Rom. 13). The government is God's minister to us for good, to protect us from the evil-doer, and to reward our good behavior by permitting us to participate in the service government provides. But even if government fails-God is still faithful who promised us protection. God hasn't promised complete freedom from violence, quite the contrary. As Christians we are told to expect persecution and unfair treatment, maybe even death (Matt. 10:16-28; Mk. 13:9-13; Luke 6:22, 23; Jno. 15:18,19). But, what has the Christian to fear from violence? "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. 8:17, 18, 35). Jesus was a victim of violence, as were His apostles and saints. Throughout history "they had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword. . .being destitute, afflicted, and tormented" (Heb. 11:36-40). What was the conclusion of the Holy Spirit? If those in times past persevered in faith, without the end that is so evident and appealing to us, what should our attitude be towards the violent deeds of men? We must lay aside all the garbage of faith in worldly power and protection, and follow Jesus Christ and His example. Even the Son of God endured violence, trusting God to raise him up. He did not carry a weapon, nor would he look to violent means to preserve his life (Matt. 26:51, 52, 53). This does not mean that we give ourselves over to complete pacifism to evildoers. Government "carrieth not the sword in vain" and it exists as our protector from the evildoer. Paul appealed to law and the protection of law in his battle against the forces of bloody minded men (Acts 22:25ff; 23:12-35; 25:11). "But if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Pet. 4:16).
Christians combat violence by striking at the roots of violence-the emotions that lead to violence. Jesus told us that the man who committed no violence was not justified before God if he harbored hatred and violent thoughts in his spirit (Matt. 5:21-26). Violence stems from anger, and hatred. As Christians we must put away wrath, evil speaking, gossip, and backbiting. We must demand the positive virtues of love, affection, humility, and regard among our brethren and in ourselves (Eph. 4:29-32). We must not permit the sun to go down upon our wrath but seek reconciliation with those we have wronged, and those who have wronged us (Matt. 5:23, 24; Matt. 18:15-17). We must stem violent words by conciliatory, loving, and tender conversation (Prov. 15:1; 25:15). We must set forth a personal example of a peaceful, law-keeping citizenship (1 Pet. 2:12-17). We must maintain a healthy home life, free from the hatred, violence, and corruption of the world. This means turning off the T.V. set once in awhile, choosing proper reading matter in the home, and directing the musical and literary tastes of our children (Eph. 6:4). We must speak out individually or in social groups against those parts of our society that breed violence. Taking the Gospel seriously in our lives means that we will use it to change the world. We need to become the reconcilers, the peacemakers, the crusaders against social injustice and corruption (Matt. 5:13-16). We must insist on fair and effective law enforcement. Equal penalty under law, with equity and mercy to all is not an American virtue of law-it is a divine principle (Rom. 2:6-11).
Truth Magazine XXI: 2, pp. 26-27