Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

A Brush With Violence


Last Wednesday I was sitting in a coffee shop having coffee with a couple of friends when I received a text from my wife. The text said,

“We’re all okay.”

This was supposed to be a comforting text from my wife, but it was not comforting in any way. In fact, it was disturbing. I had no idea what was going on. My wife is a school teacher and at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday she is supposed to be teaching children. There should be nothing dangerous about this, so why did I receive a text informing me that she and her students were all ok?

I immediately responded asking, “What happened?” I did not receive a reply. For the next hour I scoured the internet looking for any piece of news or information that would tell me what was going on. Finally, someone posted on Facebook that there was a shooting at the school where my wife teaches. The details were fuzzy at the time, but I later learned that a student brought a gun to school and tried to commit suicide.

Students and teachers in the school heard a gunshot followed by the sounds of police sirens and ambulances. The whole school went into lock down as they are all trained to do. This is followed by a time of waiting. During this time of waiting no one knows what will happen next. Who will come to the door? When will this be over? What is happening out there? These questions and others must be going through their mind.

This is the world we live in. This is what our society has come to. We are ravaged by violence, so much so, that stories like this barely get a mention if they make the news at all. We have become accustomed to school shootings with multiple victims and multiple fatalities. Hardly a week goes by without hearing about a school shooting somewhere across the country. It is not just schools. Each day I wake up to read about some act of violence that was committed in our country. Violence is alive and thriving in our culture and I am not sure anyone cares. There are some people who want to fight violence with violence and others who would like all guns to be taken away, but there are very few people who want to have a real open and honest conversation about our obsession with violence in America. This is a problem!

Why is violence such a big deal? It should be a big deal to Christians because it is an issue God addresses throughout Scripture. Violence is not the first sin we find in the Bible but it is close. Immediately after the story of Adam and Eve we find the story of Cain and Abel, a story of violence. Cain murders his brother Abel. If this were only one story, then it might just be a coincidence but the first few chapters of Genesis point to a society where violence is escalating (Gen. 4:23-24). Finally, in the days of Noah it becomes too much. God decides to destroy the world because of the sin of violence (Gen. 6:11-13).

Violence is a prominent sin in the early chapters of Genesis, but that is not the only place we find it in Scripture. The story of Jesus is a story of religious and political leaders who used their power to ensure Jesus would face a bloody and violent death. Jesus turned the cross into a symbol of grace, but before that it was a Roman torture device. Jesus’ death on the cross was violent, but he chose not to fight violence with violence. He came to earth to show us a better way to live.

Violence is the way of Cain. Violence filled the earth in the days of Noah. It is the way of Pharaoh and Caesar, but it is not the way of Jesus. As Christians we are to work towards God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. We are to anticipate and look forward to the coming of Christ, and we are to live with this goal in mind. In the age to come all will be made right and there will be no violence. Violence, like death, is our enemy. We need to be working alongside God and Jesus to redeem all that is wrong in the world. This means we must be working to end the violence that has overtaken our society.

Some may look at the task ahead of us and think it is impossible, but we must not forget that with Christ all things are possible. It is true that as long as there is sin in the world there will be such things as poverty and violence, but this does not mean we should stop working to redeem what is lost. We cannot throw our hands up in the air and give up because doing so would mean we have lost our faith. It would mean we have given up on the very mission that God has called us to. It would mean that we do not believe in the very prayer that Jesus gave us to pray. Each time we pray the Lord’s prayer we are professing that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Where do we begin? To be honest I do not know, but I do know we must begin. We must do something. Here are a few suggestions.

We need to begin in our own families, churches, and towns. Too often we expect important issues to be solved on a national level. We need to give up on this idea. We have a responsibility to bring about good in the communities we live in. We are going to have more of an impact on our own communities than anything that happens nationally.

We need to start talking about violence differently. We must see it as a sin, as something wrong with the world. Our favorite movies and TV shows are filled with violence. We are more apt to allow our children to watch something that is violent than we are to allow them to watch something that is sexual in nature. I suspect that there are even some people within our communities who see violence as a good thing. They may see it as an effective way of solving problems, whether on a small or large scale. We need to begin to change the way we see and talk about violence. Violence is what killed Jesus. It is what brought the world to an end in Genesis 6.

We need to build healthy communities where people feel safe talking about problems and issues they are facing. Some of the more horrendous acts of violence that we have witnessed recently have ended in suicide. We need to create places where people can share what is wrong in their life and get help. We also need to invite people to be a part of these communities. I realize this can be done in a secular way, but this is the job of the church. We need to be reaching out to a hurting world.

We need to spread hope. We need to give people a reason to live. We need to live hope-filled lives, so we can share with the world the message of a Savior who loves them and died for them. People are yearning and longing to believe in something. When they have no hope and when they have nothing to believe in, then it is very easy to do something terrible.

We need to lament when violence occurs, but we should not be afraid. Violence is a terrible thing. We should mourn its existence, but we should not back down from it in fear. We cannot allow violence or fear to win. Jesus looked violence in the face and responded with love. The greatest weapon we have is love. Love has the power to overcome violence.

I’m not sure these are the best answers, but they are something and I am tired of doing nothing. I am tired of waking up each day and reading another story of violence.  I am tired of hearing about violence being perpetrated against innocent school age children. I mourn and lament that our schools are not safe havens and that many of them have become targets for terror. I have had enough and I hope you have too.

Psalm 11:1-5

In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

3 Responses to “A Brush With Violence”

  1. You are a truly amazing man Scott Elliott and you make this world a better place. You couldn’t have said this any better. I love you Scott and I’m so thankful to God that everyone is ok. I think your Dad and I can definately relate after living through the Murrah bombing being only 2 blocks away. Keep up the Lord’s work sweetheart. I’m going to share this with my friends.

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