Were you shocked when you heard that a gunman opened fire in a train and shot thirty-three people, killing six of them? Did it disturb or upset you when two ten-year old boys beat to death a two-year old? Or are such murders not close enough to home to horrify and affect you?
What is your reaction, then, when you hear of violence right in the city in which you live? A young pregnant mother stops to help some youths – they shoot her down dead. A young girls walks from the living room into the kitchen to get a drink – a shot gun fired through the window kills her. A husband is unhappy with his wife and family – he shoots them all to death and then kills himself. An employee has recently lost his job – he returns to his work-place and murders his boss and a number of his fellow workers.
Violence is on the increase. Each day the Press and the News Broadcasts report shootings and killings such as those just mentioned. People think they can solve life’s difficulties by murdering others, by “getting rid of” those who offend them. If they are upset with someone, they kill him.
As Christians, we too often respond to these murders by thinking or saying: “Yes, that’s awful, but it’s the world’s problem, not mine,” or even, “That’s really bad, but at least it doesn’t affect me.” We see and hear of so many murders occurring every day that they no longer shock us – we become hardened to them. Thus we even lose sight of the serious sin of killing others, for every murderer breaks the sixth commandment of God’s law and should be punished with death.
There is a grave danger in this kind of response on our part. Being hardened to violence and to murder in this way is the first step toward becoming involved in them. If we think lightly of violence and murder, we will soon forget that God also forbids, in the sixth commandment, all “envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 106). Eventually we ourselves will resort to these sinful means in order to deal with our own problems. It is important, therefore, that we guard against becoming hardened to this serious sin. We must respond with abhorrence to all violence and to every murder which we either see or about which we hear.
However, another question which is important to us is: What is the source of the problem of violence and murder? Why do people murder each other? Why, Why, Why? It is only in understanding the source of this problem that we are able properly to guard against it and to deal with it.
Many different answers have been given to this question. Some attribute it to childhood abuse. Some blame racism. Others believe that discrimination is the cause. Some find the fault in lack of education. But all of these answers are purely worldly, and not one of them even gets close to the real cause, the only cause.
The answer to the question is really very simple – SIN! Sin is the root cause of all violence, of all the killings and slayings that occur. It is because of man’s sin that he is so quick to pull the trigger of a pistol or gun. It is because of sin that man turns to violence in order to try to solve his problems.
All men, because they have sinful natures, are naturally inclined to do wickedly, but our sinful natures are also fed, and therefore led into sin, by what we see and hear. Thus, a contributing factor in today’s violence is that the use of guns is often portrayed as the acceptable means of dealing with those who upset you or whom you hate. Nearly every movie, both on television and at the theater, involves violence with guns. At first one is perhaps shocked to see fellow human beings being shot. But this soon wears off. After only a short period of time those who watch such movies grow accustomed to the shootings and expect violence to be a normal part of every movie. Parents and children alike, we have a powerful reason here to oppose movies and television, for the sins portrayed feed our sinful nature and lead us into sin.
However, it is not only television and movies that feed violence, but also many computer “games.” Computers are capable of producing real to life graphics, and many games have been developed and are sold in which one is involved in shooting other people. The effect of this is worse than watching a movie, for the person playing the game is actively involved in shooting others. He not only watches others get shot, but he himself pulls the trigger that shoots the other person. One is also led to believe that shooting and getting shot isn’t all that serious, for you have more than one life, right! These computer “games” undermine the seriousness of violence and murder.
I am reminded of a saying that a pastor of mine often quoted: “Given the right time, place and circumstances, there is no known sin which anyone would not commit.” How true! Do not, therefore, feed your sinful inclinations so that you are hardened to the sin of violence and of breaking the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
The solutions of the world to the problem of violence and murder are and always will be useless, for the world never gets to the heart of the problem – Sin! Gun laws are the supposed solution. If we have a five-day waiting period before anyone can purchase a firearm, this will enable us to do a check on criminals and also provide a “cooling down” period for would-be murderers who are seeking immediate revenge.
The world also deals wrongly with offenders. Murderers are not called murderers; they are simply persons who have problems. With some treatment, usually psychological, these problems are ironed out and “murderers” are allowed back on the street. The world does not deal with the sin of killing and with the just punishment of it – death. Hence, all these and many other measures taken by the world are futile. For the facts stare us in the face, violence is still on the increase!
As Christians, we must realize that the solution to the problem of violence and murder is only to be found in treating the source of the problem – sin. This is something that man cannot do. Only God can enable man to control his sinful nature. Many are deterred from violence because of the consequences they might suffer. But it is only the work of God’s grace in one’s heart and life that keeps him from resorting to violence and murder (both externally in his actions and inwardly in his heart).
So how must we deal with this problem which is becoming worse in society, and which will no doubt affect even us in the future?
We must see that the existence of violence is part of God’s curse on the world and upon all men. Sin develops and becomes worse and worse. As the Scripture teaches us in Matthew 24, violence is a sign of the times. As the end of the world draws nigh, we will see and hear wars and rumors of wars, nations rising up against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms. Violence is a sign that the end of the world is near.
Do we therefore despair at the hopeless plight of the world? No. We must seek comfort in the truth of God’s sovereign control over all things. Even the violent events that occur are according to God’s plan and purpose, though they may not seem to be and though we may not in this life see and understand God’s purpose. Christ Himself told us: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6). We have the promise that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
We are not here in this world in order to make it our home, for we seek a heavenly home. Our life here is a pilgrimage. We must seek the heavenly rest which God has prepared for us and which awaits us. This does not mean that we are not concerned by the problems of the world. We are. We should be. But we do not live in the false hope of the world becoming a better place. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (II Timothy 3:13). Daily seek, therefore, and pray also, that Christ will come quickly so that we and our loved ones will be delivered from this wicked world.