Today’s world is a violent one. There’s no question about that. Everyone has heard about the war going on in the Ukraine right now. War in itself is bad enough, but the reports of the murder, torture, and rapes of civilian men, women, and even children make the events unfolding in the Ukraine right now seem even more horrific. Many in America might believe that with our recent departures from Iraq and Afghanistan that the U.S. has moved away from war. Those people might be surprised to know that the U.S. is still actively participating in several other wars in places like Yemen and Somalia. Whether the events are reported on the news every day or not, global scale violence has been a constant in the world for decades.
One need not know anything about the various wars in the world to understand how violent the world is. Even on national and local levels, we see plenty of examples of the violence. You can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing a story detailing some ridiculous and unnecessary act of violence. With the rise of the internet and social media, you can be nearly drowned in a wave of stories, articles, and videos detailing or showing egregious acts of violence.
With the exposure we get to the violence, it’s easy to come to believe that the world is more violent now than it ever was. After hearing about incidents where dozens of people get shot or killed in a single weekend in cities like Chicago or Philadelphia, people can easily come away thinking senseless violence has reached unprecedented levels. What might come as another surprise to many is that such an impression would be wrong. For example, the murder rate in the U.S. had actually been on the decline since the early 1990s. One of the strange consequences of the COVID pandemic was that the nation saw a sharp rise in murders, still even with that rise, the amount of homicides committed each year is much less now than it was three decades ago. As unbelievable as it might be, violent crime in the nation has actually been going down over the decades.
Truthfully, any inspection of history would show us that violence now doesn’t stand out when compared to what has always existed in human society. Modern wars have definitely resulted in unprecedented destruction and casualties, but that has more to do with the nature of modern weaponry than any increased propensity of violence for people. Even without tanks, machine guns, and high yield bombs, groups like the Mongols were still able to wipe whole cities off the map.
Anyone who has read the Bible should understand how violent humans can be. The stories in the Old Testament are particularly telling. Violence in the Old Testament is extremely prevalent. The very first crime we are introduced to after Adam and Eve’s fall was an act of fratricide with Cain killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4). Take a moment to think of five stories you know from the Old Testament. There’s a good chance that at least three of those five stories have a violent angle to them.
Critics of the Bible like to point out that God actually took part in a lot of the violence of the Old Testament. He helped the Israelites destroy the city of Jericho (Joshua 6). He gave Samson the ability to kill masses of Philistines (Judges 15), and he helped David kill Goliath and then go on to massacre his enemies in a series of wars (1 and 2 Samuel). Does that mean God likes man’s violence?
Absolutely not, as has been noted by this blog many times, God wanted to destroy humanity with the flood primarily because humans were so violent (Genesis 6:11-14). So why did God support the Israelites in their efforts to destroy their enemies?
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. – Deuteronomy 18: 9-13
God knew that the enemies of the Israelites were evil and would lead His people astray if they were allowed to consort. This wasn’t just some baseless assumption God was making. He’s all knowing, and the Bible proves him correct. Throughout the Old Testament when the Israelites did come into contact with foreign nations, they were quick to take up wicked practices just as God said they would. What exactly were these practices?
They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. – Jeremiah 7:31
Yes, the Israelites were routinely engaging in child sacrifice even though God repeatedly told them not to do it and punished them for disobeying. That’s just how committed they were to being violently in the wrong.
Unfortunately, violence just happens to be part of the human experience. It’s so deeply ingrained in us that when God made his big act to offer us salvation, it involved his Son being the victim of violence, and his Son’s return will be met with even more violence. Basically, violence isn’t something that will go away until God is ready to cleanse this world completely.
So what does that mean for us? It means we have to live and persevere. The threat of violence is ever present and too many people fall victim to it, but it’s important we understand that it’s nothing new. We can’t allow our heightened exposure to it to discourage us. God was with the Israelites when they were surrounded by enemies. He was with the early Christians when they were being actively persecuted. He’s still with us here and now.
The world is a harsh place. That is the consequence of sin. As Christians, we have to do our best to rise above sin and the violence that comes with it. As we do, we can help others do the same. We’ll never eliminate the violence in the world. Only God can do that. What we can do is believe in and spread the Gospel. If we do that, we can ensure that one day we and everyone who chooses to believe in Jesus will see a world of peace and an eternity with God when the violence of man becomes a thing of the past.
Image courtesy of Life Hope & Truth