Violence all Around Us

As I sit here this morning struggling to wrap my head around the recent school shootings that have taken place, it has me thinking about the violence of our society. True, when students and teachers lose their lives in what is supposed to be a place of learning, not a place of fear, it shakes you up — it has to. Yet, school shootings are not the only thing that is robbing our nation’s families of their future generations. Drugs and drug overdoses have become widespread and are plaguing our communities. Then we can talk about gangs and the crime associated with that, we can talk about how the innocence of so many young people is being robbed through rape and exploitation, and bullying has become an epidemic.

As a Christian, the simple answer, of course, is sin. Mankind is fallen, we have inherited it from our forefathers all of the way back to Adam, and the only solution is the completed work of Jesus Christ. No amount of legislation or government regulation will change this reality or will make our land less violent. Violence goes along with sin and always has — it goes back to Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel.

Yet, I don’t want to stop there because it seems to me that violence, in particularly violence performed by and against our youth, is on the rise. One might say that the rise in violence is simply the end result of there being more people in our country and in our communities, but I think that is too simplistic an answer because while we cannot change human nature, the actions we take and the principles we teach do affect the culture in which we live. And therein lies much of the problem.

While there are probably more contributors (feel free to share your thoughts here), I want to focus on two. The first of these things is that for more than a generation, young men and women have been taught that they evolved from lower life-forms. This is very obviously not consistent with a Christian world-view, but how does this promote violence? The answer is that in an evolutionary model, the main goal of a species is self-preservation and the right to breed. The phrases that most commonly gets used is “the survival of the fittest” or “the strong survive.” If one applies this mindset to humans, the one of central importance becomes the self and everyone around you exists to serve your needs. The moment they cease to benefit you, they get thrown to the side. Virtues like self-sacrifice, mercy, kindness, and chivalry are simply not a part of the “Law of the Jungle,” and thus vanishing from the worldviews of those taught in this way. I have said before, if you teach children that they are nothing more than evolved animals, do not be surprised when they behave like animals.

The second of these matters is that for more than a generation, people have been taught that they are basically good and it is society that corrupts. If this were the case, then why bother teaching moral law? If deep-down, people are good, then they are capable of following their own moral compass. And so, the teaching of absolute morality (like the Ten Commandments) has been replaced by the teaching of situational ethics. Everything is treated as relative (except for the laws of the State…funny how that works). 

The problem is that deep down, we are not good, we are sinful. In fact, Question 5 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks whether we can keep the Law of God perfectly. The answer is surprising to most students: “No. By nature, I tend to hate God and my neighbor.” Most of the time people don’t think of themselves as hating God or their neighbor, but what is unprovoked violence if it is not an expression of hatred? And, is not hatred the opposite of love? Jesus said that if we love him, we will be obedient to his commands (John 14:15). Do we obey the commands of God consistently or even conscientiously? Usually not. 

What is the solution? The only real and lasting solution is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, we can also change the way we teach. We can teach children that they are made in the image of God and thus have a moral obligation to imitate him and live out his law. We can teach them that deep down they are sinners in need of grace as well as that they are in need of showing grace to others. We can teach them that their moral compass is not within themselves, but is found within the revealed word of God. No, you do not create Christian children by teaching them the Law (that is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit), but you do create more of a moral community by doing so. And that is a community in which both believer and non-believer will thrive…and it is a community in which violence is greatly reduced. 

The thing that grieves me the most is that if we do not change the way we live and function as a society, things will get worse and not better.

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