The Roots of Violence

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"Your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, 
For shedding innocent blood, 
And practicing oppression and violence." 
(Jer. 22:17)

Being filled with all unrighteousness, . . . haters of God, violent . . . (Rom. 1:29-30).

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Following a shootout last month that left a suspect dead and a Wichita police officer critically wounded, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay got philosophical about a larger problem. “Chiefs around the country are all saying the same thing," he said. "Something has happened societally that is causing people to immediately resort to solving conflict through the use of guns. . . . These are the results of failures in our society."

The Chief is onto something here. Guns are no more to blame for the uptick in violence in our society than swords or spears or knives or clubs or rocks in ages gone by. Violence has been part of our history ever since Cain slew Abel (choice of weapon: unknown). There is something deeper going on in human society that is responsible for the mayhem. 

Everywhere that the Bible addresses the problem of civil violence, the same underlying influence is always highlighted: a lack of respect for God and His order. Jewish society in the days of Jeremiah was racked with violence and oppression because, as the prophet described it, the eyes and hearts of the people were "for nothing but your covetousness." God meant nothing to these people, so there were no brakes on their behavior. Their selfish desires trumped all other considerations, and when those desires clashed with others, as they inevitably do, the result was brutality. The weapons used to inflict the brutality was inconsequential to the deeper problem. 

Human nature hasn't changed, and the dynamics underlying violent crime have not changed either. As our society drifts further away from God, His influence in the lives of millions of people grows weaker and weaker. People are becoming more selfish, more inconsiderate of the rights of others, and quicker to attack--even physically--anyone who crosses them. In the eyes of the perps, of course, the fault is always on those who get in the way. The details may differ, but the pattern is consistent. Domestic abuse, barroom brawls, road rage incidents, mob violence, armed robberies--it all stems from hearts that have no place for God.

Paul summarized the problem in his Romans 1 description of civilizational collapse: "Violence" always follows right after "haters of God." It's that simple. 

The only antidote is for God's people to challenge our neighbors to recognize the price we are all paying for kicking God to the curb. We can fix this problem . . . but not without God's help.