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Violence and the Christian Heart

Violence is an issue that has created quite a lot of heat, but very little light amongst Christians. There is uncertainty and uneasiness when the question is brought up, and nearly always ends in a great display of patriotic fervor, excessive loyalty to one’s own point of view, or a prideful display of arrogance on the one side, and a sense of aloneness and isolation or defeated cowering and intimidation, on the other. Without question there is a contrast in what is read from the Old Testament and New Testament on the subject, and due to the nature of man in his present state, i.e. a state of separation from God and a propensity toward sin and confusion, the majority willingly gravitate toward the violence of the Old Testament (That argument is taken up in some of my other articles). Even those who claim the characteristics of Christ: humility, peace, forgiveness, and beauty of spirit, will readily condemn and judge their enemies when their own flesh is touched, nation insulted, or conscience offended. As touching the issue of violence in the church, and in society, this study will bring no comfort to either Right or Left, but will focus on being true to the Gospel.

What bothers me most is that Christians are such conformist, and follow the herd in adopting the latest trend, and fail to introduce anything specifically Christian into the conversation. Their convictions and worldview are determined by the status-quo or their social position, and not by faith in the revelation of Christ. That faith is what forms the uniqueness of the Christian and should be his demonstration to an on-looking world. Today’s theologies are the engineered contrivances of men to justify their private or corporate positions in society, and on grounds that are assuredly unstable, and not Christian; and this is what the herd follows.

Up till now my articles have defined violence as it relates to war, active physical resistance, or the force intended to do bodily harm, damage, or loss of life. There is also the violence displayed by the force of will against a text or a meaning, so as to destroy the intended meaning of the content. This is what is meant when a person says, “They have done violence to the words of Scripture.” To twist the sense or intention of someone’s words or the words of the Bible is to commit an act of violence. The act is done with the same motive as any act of violence, and that is to do harm, of one form or another.

Violence is violence, and finds its roots in the same convulsive emotions that can lay dormant in the heart of a non-combatant or humble servant. At the heart of violence is the desire to dominate, or to force one’s way upon another person or group. In my estimation violence is one of the most obscene emotions displayed by the human animal. Violence is a universal and destructive defect of our nature.

Mahatma Gandhi once said:

“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.”

All of these arguments sound honorable of course, but really all that his words show are the products of violence and not the cause; these sayings only point out Gandhi’s personal worldview. What he really shows is that the defect of violence lays back even further than its existential effect.

Another study prepared by a school representative of 900 highschools narrowed down the supposed cause of violence to the mascots, theme songs, and the landscaping; the more violent the mascot, song, or the lack of landscaping, the more violent the school. Another institute made the astounding discovery that, “Violence comes from violence.” After this man’s daughter was raped he too discovered that he could be violent, even to murder, which indicates the seeds of violence existed even in him, whose flesh had been touched. And, again, Alice Miller states that the traumatization of children is the root of violence.

What we see here is that they haven’t really found the root cause of violence, only that it can be overt or covert, and that it can be forced to surface and display itself in very obscene ways.

What we do find is that violence is inherent to the nature of man. There is no valid conclusion that man is basically good, and that he learns to be violent and evil from his environment; that is pure fiction. Christian common sense dictates that we see violence for what it is, natural and typical of man in his humanity. We can also draw from that, that violence and force are also essential, as tools used, in governing society, equally binding on rich and poor. The great shame of the Christian world is their double-mindedness, their paradox of violence and peace, of love and hate, and of forgiveness and condemnation.

Christians have made the grave mistake of thinking that what is natural is also good, and what is necessary is appropriate. Some are saying, “The violence perpetrated by evil is bad, but the violence administrated by government, Christian or otherwise, is a good kind of violence.” This is anti-Christian thinking par-excellence. It is not my purpose here to exegete Romans 13, but only to say that all governments use violence to enforce civility, and that they are allowed by God to do so, although He will judge them. Has not Christ made us free? Is not Christ the one who has provided us freedom from necessity? and, to even struggle with us against necessity? This necessity of violence becomes the very thing Christians are required to struggle against. Not the struggle of revolutionary violence or revolt, but the fight against the violence in our declaration of Christ to the world. Our struggle against violence is the violence inherent in our own nature, it is a show to the world that Christ does indeed dictate our walk in the presence of men lost in their fight to dominate this world and those in it.

In all actuality this thing about want, need, and necessity, is in the order of separation from God. Did Adam know anything of want or need? Necessity only shows up after Adam’s broken relationship with God. At that point it became necessary to form regulations and controls; it became natural to desire peace and safety. The constant reminder of Scripture, that Christians should give, and be generous, flies in the face of necessity and need, of any kind.

Here I have tried to give simple considerations to help appreciate the problem of violence, as applicable to Christians. The evil lure is to always yield to violence as a means of regulating the aggressiveness of other, and to see in the temptation the approval of God. Christ has shown us a better way, and in truth, the only way. That way is the way of faith, peace, love, forgiveness, and mercy, as exemplified by the life of Jesus. Jesus rejected violence, root-and-branch. Christians must show to the world this new and different way, that some might be saved.

3 replies on “Violence and the Christian Heart”

Mat_21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
Mar_11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
Joh_2:15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

While I agree with most of what you say here, I think it is important to remember that Jesus made a scourge (whip) and used it when he was driving those who bought and sold from the temple. This would seem to belie your statement that he rejected violence, “root-and-branch.”

Dimple,

Thanks for the comment, and there does appear to be a contradiction in the teaching of Jesus with the verses you quote.

“While I agree with most of what you say here, I think it is important to remember that Jesus made a scourge (whip) and used it when he was driving those who bought and sold from the temple. This would seem to belie your statement that he rejected violence, ‘root-and-branch.’”

At this point it is necessary to stop and think about the possibility of Jesus actually living a life of contradiction to His own teachings. Is that possible? Does Jesus speak out of both sides of His mouth? With the actions displayed in the verse you quote has He left the door open for men to be violent? With Jesus’ command to “follow Me” can we lay at His doorstep all the violence promoted and sponsored by the Church, and Christians? The problem is apparent, and serious, if we believe that Jesus both lived a sinless life and committed a sinful act. Something is wrong here; we can’t have it both ways.

In the many places where non-violence is taught, by both Jesus, His Apostles, and for nearly 300 years of the primitive Church, and the one place where Jesus seemingly breaks with this teaching, are we to believe that this one reference is to set the precedence for all the other simple and clear teachings to the contrary? What conclusion should we draw? Did He fail to “turn the other cheek”? What we need to do here is to move from the seemingly intense physical facts of the occurrence to the universal spirit in which it was performed. Being acutely aware of the spirit in which Christ lived His life as a man on planet earth I find it impossible that He would do harm to another human being. We must be careful that we do not add to the words or imagine some purely human action in the reading of these verses.

First of all we have the prophecy of Psalm 69:9, “because zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult You have fallen on me.” If you read further in the text of John, that you quoted, you will see that, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” John 2:17. The zeal that we see Christ exhibiting here is a fulfillment of prophecy. Christ’s view of the Kingdom of God was vastly different than ours, and His zeal enflamed Him almost to judgment.

We cannot read into the passage more than what is said. He drove them all out with a scourge that He had made, with the intent to punish, but it does not say that He delivered a blow to anyone’s flesh. Jesus suffered all the same emotions that we suffer, with this difference, He never sinned. This zeal, He experienced as a man, carried Him forward further than we see at any other time, but we must conclude that He never hurt anyone; but what a sight He must have been; the rage of a man kept in check by the Spirit of God. Where else do we see this kind of display? We can be sure that the whole range of human emotions was experienced by Jesus, yet without sinning.

Did Jesus reject violence “root and branch”? Yes He did. Many use this verse as an escape route to exact violence and judgment on their fellowman, but it is not justified. We must have the mind and spirit of Christ to know that Jesus lived a life of complete conformity to His own teachings, and compels us to follow, as very many have done.

Most of our understanding of Jesus’ life is harvested from roots sunk deep in the earth, and not from the heavenly Vine in which we have been grafted. The spirit of Christ is one of peace, love, forgiveness, mercy, joy, and humility; the spirit of violence is of this world and has no place in God’s economy.

I visited your blog and got caught-up in a few of your articles; very well written and interesting; I will return.

In His service,

Steve Blackwell

“Christians have made the grave mistake of thinking that what is natural is also good, and what is necessary is appropriate.”

Thanks for once again sharing some thoughts that go beyond the superficial world in which the religious system flourishes.
David

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