October 20, 1992
It is Sunday afternoon and the stores are packed with back-to-school shoppers. Suddenly a young man races through the mall with another fellow in angry pursuit, each yelling loudly at the other. When they pass us, the second is saying to the first, “You are dead meat, man. I will get you... you are dead, for sure.”
Other shoppers are uncomfortable. Some laugh. My husband says someone should call the security guards. Moments later, a dozen youth and two guards move quickly in the same direction as the first two. They all talk at once. We hear one of them say, “He yanked out a knife.” A few minutes after that, we see an R.C.M.P. officer hurrying in the same direction.
No, this was not in Hong Kong or even New York but in a small city in southern British Colombia, in broad daylight, with hundreds of witnesses. We wondered what drove this young person to make such a threat, endangering not only his intended victim but his own freedom. Why do so many people resort to violence when no one really wins anyway?
Sociologists and psychologists have a myriad of answers: inadequate education, deteriorating family values, peer pressure, poverty, television and so on, yet with all their wisdom, young lives continue to slip through the cracks into the streets where the only laws are written by the survivors.
Historically, violence began right after Adam and Eve were put out of Eden. Cain killed his brother Abel in cold blood and violence began to permeate society. The Bible paints the same bloody picture of humanity out to destroy humanity by acts of aggression and brutality as does our daily news; however, the Bible gives a different reason violence exists. According to the Word of God, brutality is evidence of sin in the human heart, and sin is an attitude of rebellion against God.
I can relate. There have been a few expressions of savagery in my life. While I didn’t pull a knife on someone, I have thrown things, including a punch or two. Reflecting on my anger at people, I realize I was actually angry with God at the time; I didn’t like the things He was allowing to happen in my life, so I lashed out in retaliation. Instead of trusting His choices for me and His power to make things right, I was going to force my own way.
The Word of God (and the bitter consequences of my anger) have taught me that God hates violence. Psalms 11:5 says, “The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
He also has been known to severely judge violence: “God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; I will destroy them with the earth’” (Gen.6:13). He did just what He said by sending a catastrophic flood that drowned those who were in rebellion against Him. Sometimes God allows brutal people to self-destruct, destroyed by their own ferocity: “The violence of the wicked will destroy them because they refuse to do justice” (Proverbs 21:7).
God offers a model of non-violence though, even for those who have every reason to retaliate. His Son Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet was hated and treated brutally. Instead of breathing out threats, He “entrusted Himself to the Father who judges righteously” and “He did no violence...”
Jesus’ submission to His abusers meant death for Him but through His death, we are offered forgiveness and a new heart, including those who resort to personal retaliation as the only answer to injustice. Jesus gives grace and peace to the angry, protection and hope to the victims.
God promised His people that someday, “Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise” — all because of Jesus.