From The Kitchen Window - Violence
Words by David Hollows
We like to think that we live in relative peace in the valley that is until we turn to the media and realise what a violent world we live in. When you emerge from the shock of what you see and hear in the media stories, perhaps you start to ponder the violence which surrounds us in our havens of tranquility.
Nature itself is a very violent force: we only have to consider the typhoons and hurricanes which batter parts of our world as well as earthquakes and flooding which cause such devastation.
In the animal world, the violence of the lioness as she captures a zebra on which her cubs will feast is not a pleasant image nor are the bullying tactics of the robin as it protects its own space from other robins.
We human beings are masters at violence: recent media reports have depicted snipers killing innocent children playing in the streets of Iraq, there have been the biological attacks in the Syrian war, acid attacks are frequently aimed at young women and girls in certain parts of the world and knife crime is a serious issue here in our own country. In various countries across the world we have witnessed the blatant aggression and violence of the extreme militants which echo the violent methods of violence used down the centuries, ranging from the Spanish Inquisition to Japanese prisoners of war 70 years ago.
In our digital world, violence has taken on new forms: there are the anonymous Trolls whose intentionally violent comments can be as painful as physical violence. There is the violence incited by comments on social media which led up to the storming of Capital Hill in Washington DC earlier this year and there is often the violence which arises from peaceful demonstration and confrontation in countries such as Belarus and Myanmar.
Violence is not just aimed at people: during the protests across America in 2020 following the death of George Floyd and those in Hong Kong, violent damage was intentionally inflicted on buildings as people vented their frustrations.
However, when violence is directed at people this will often assume 2 forms: the violence which is inflicted in the home as part of a relationship between adults or adult and children where the violence is physical, sexual or emotional.
The experts inform us that the rate of this kind of violence has risen during the pandemic. There is also the more subtle form of violence whereby controlling behaviors, negative comments and withdrawal of communication reduce the quality of life for the victim.
There is the violence which is a direct result of alcohol or drug addiction and doubtless, you will be able to think of many other examples.
Photo by Jean Wimmerlin via Unsplash
The Bible is no stranger to violence.
Within the first few chapters a family murder is recorded (Genesis chapter 4) and later there is the brutal murder of Sisera (Judges chapter 4).
There are examples of violence caused by nature such as a dramatic flood (Genesis chapter 6) or the earthquake Paul and Silas experience (Acts chapter 16) as well as the shipwreck which involved Paul (Acts chapter 16).
The many forms of violence are evident in the Old Testament section of the Bible: the oppression of the Hebrews in Egypt (Exodus chapter 8) the intentional blinding of Samson (Judges chapter 16) and the beheading of Goliath (1 Samuel chapter 17).
The Old Testament records much of the violent history of the Israelites as they established themselves as a new nation amongst many others (Joshua chapter 11). There are the violent narratives of the battles between the Israelites and the Philistines (2 Samuel chapter 8) as well as the accounts of civil war between King Saul and David then between King David and his own sons (2 Chronicles chapter 36).
There is a range of violence recorded from the burning of the Temple in Jerusalem and the captivity to Babylon as recorded in the book of Jeremiah to the violent assault against Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon (2 Samuel chapter 13) In the New Testament Paul is stoned during a violent attack (Acts chapter 14).
Jesus himself is not shielded from violence: the comments by the religious leaders are fierce as they try to discredit Him. In the Temple, Jesus overturns the tables of the merchants (Matthew chapter 21) and there is the unbelievable violence of the crucifixion (John chapter 19).
At this point, you may be starting to ask yourself some basic questions:
How could God allow such suffering through so many different forms of violence?
Why didn’t God intervene when Samson was being blinded or Paul stoned?
If God created in His own image, where does the violence come from?
These and many other such questions are legitimate and there are some simplistic answers: God was protecting the Israelites, Samson had not listened to God’s instructions, God has given us free will, therefore if He intervenes, He becomes a controlling God and more.
Many people have found this destructive, negative and even violent dynamic of God too difficult to accept and have walked away from faith. Others have struggled to balance the God portrayed in the Old Testament with the God of love in the New Testament and their faith has been stretched to limits.
To counter these kinds of questions, we need to look at Jesus and see in Him the qualities of our God.
On the one hand, we have the violent stories of war, murder, incest and human tragedy contrasted with the life-style and teachings of Jesus which demonstrate the values of God:
respect: when Jesus meets the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus shows her full respect despite her background (John chapter 4) value: Jesus values His disciples as He calls them friends (John chapter 15) as well as a whole range of other people from Roman officials to tax collectors tolerance: Jesus tolerates the bravado of Peter during the Last Supper (John chapter 13) forgiveness: Jesus forgives those soldiers who crucified Him (Luke chapter 23) compassion: Jesus is the epitome of this quality when dealing with the cripple at the Bethesda pool (John chapter 5) mercy: Jesus offers this to the woman caught in alleged adultery as He dismisses her (John chapter 8) acceptance: Jesus does not walk on when He meets people in need of healing including lepers and the blind (John chapter 9) love: in the relationship Jesus has with Lazarus (John chapter 11)
One day, we will all stand before God and be able to ask Him these kind of questions and about other issues as well. If you struggle with these issues and they rock your faith, why not talk with God about it?
You may find the following hymn useful:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind (Mission Praise 111)
You may find the following prayer helpful; Loving God, be with us now and renew us with your creative love. Loving God, be with us now and grant us forgiveness through your saving love for those times when we have fallen away and struggled with faith. Loving God, be with us now and strengthen us in our doubts through your sustaining grace. Loving God, be with us now as we spend time with you.