Violence. It's rampant. Like a plague.
Another mass shooting. Another van drives into pedestrians. Another bomb. Another case of domestic abuse. Another knife attack. Another war.
We rightly grieve for lost lives and damaged families due to violence. Some grieve the mental health issues that often play a role in violence. Some grieve the ease at which 27 people can be shot to death by one legally or illegally acquired weapon. Some say fewer guns will reduce the violence. Others say more guns are needed to reduce the violence. We grieve that public gatherings like movies, concerts, and church services aren't safe from violence. We grieve that nations are developing weapons (uh...to keep up with ours) with plans for violence. We grieve terrorist acts of violence. We grieve the violence out there.
Out there. That's where the violence is and that's where the problem is. His violence. Her violence. Their violence. We're waiting (and waiting) for people to stop their violence. What if we were to instead begin to deal with our violence?
Oh, I know.
Even in writing a blog about grieving our own violence, I caught myself desiring to influence others to renounce their violence. Let me start with my own violence.
I don't see myself as a violent man. I've never had an interest in hunting or blowing things up. I'm not bothered with shooting aliens for points. I don't glory in imagining myself shooting an intruder. I gave up watching gory movies years ago. So, call me a wuss. I'll gladly arm wrestle you for the title of biggest wuss, if you'd like.
Speaking of wrestling, I've always entertained myself with the violence of professional wrestling. Sure, I don't watch it anymore, but I did introduce the old stuff to my kids a few years back. I figured, if they can't reference Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3, then I fear they may truly come across as weird home-schooled kids when they socialize with others. Anyway, we've watched a few wrestling matches on YouTube and the boys have really enjoyed it. We usually follow it up with some wrestling of our own out on the trampoline. Seems innocent enough.
Well, it looks like I crossed the line. No, it wasn't that I gave one of them a pile driver and hurt them. I showed them a classic match that proved to be too much for them. Mankind vs. Undertaker. Yeah, for those in the know, it was that match. Mankind is thrown off the top of a cage onto a table. Kersplat! Then, he crawls back up, only to be slammed through the top of the cage onto the mat below. A mat, for some reason, covered in thumb tacks. It's a classic.
A strange thing happened though. My boys weren't impressed. They were horrified. They weren't entertained by the idea of someone being slammed down onto a mat o' tacks. Mankind's bloodied shirt didn't inspire them. It revolted them.
Was the problem theirs or mine?
Looking back, I believe the problem was (and is) mine. They saw the violence as it was. Ugly and something to be rejected. I had bought into wrestling for so long that thumbtacks in the back was just another stunt these guys were willing to go through to keep me entertained. I'd seen my share of matches with chairs to the head and faces dragged across barbed-wire. A few thumbtacks hardly registered on my violence radar. It was off the charts for my boys.
I regret having shown them that match. I sometimes regret introducing them to wrestling at all. That being said, I hope to learn from my mistake. I don't need to increase my boys' tolerance for violence. Their rejection was appropriate. It's the mind that accepts this violence as suitable entertainment that needs sanctifying. That's me, I'm afraid.
Does violence find a home in your heart?
No? Look again. Just in case.
Sometimes it lurks behind the fact that it's not us personally who are acting violently. We just approve of it. After all, it's not you who fired a drone into a village of civilians in Pakistan. You simply voted for those who did. You didn't punch Mayweather. You just watched the fight. You didn't throw poor Mankind onto a bed of thumbtacks. You just inspired him to be willing to do that for your entertainment. You didn't kill anyone on Game of Thrones. You just kept tuning in week after week, decapitation after decapitation. And, after all, those are only pretend aliens splattering all over your screen. You're just getting pretty good at making them splatter.
How long will we defend our violence?
Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord."
Live peaceably with all men. Yes, I know."As much as depends on you", right? So, if the other person won't be peaceable, then you, most regrettably of course, "do whatcha gotta do". Here's the deal, as I see it." Live peaceably with all men" is the meat in a "whatever you do, don't do whatcha gotta do" sandwich. Repay no one evil for evil, even if they won't live peaceably with you. Do not avenge yourselves, even if they won't live peaceably with you. It's Christ's way and, therefore, the way for Christians also.
I'm learning to grieve my violence and release it to God. I don't pretend to have arrived. You should see (and hear) me when the Rototiller gives me trouble! I'm on the journey too.
But I don't think we're getting anywhere pointing fingers at the violence of others. I believe it may be more productive to reduce the violence I practice and with which I keep myself entertained. My violence is something worth fighting.
Dave became the Senior Pastor in April 2015 at TCC after serving as the Director of Children's and Praise Ministries for 9 years. He graduated in 2011 from A.W. Tozer Seminary with a Masters in Christian Leadership. He and his wife, Katie, live in Sequim with their 6 children, 2 dogs, 15 chickens, and 50,000 honeybees.
Current Sermon Series