Our culture has a bipolar view of violence. On the one hand, we are completely against it. The media is constantly pointing out all the violence in our culture: rape, shootings, homicides, etc. Our culture is always speaking against these things and the media highlights them as bad news.
On the other hand, our culture doesn’t mind violence. Hollywood puts out movies and TV shows full of shootings, rape, and homicides – and we watch them for entertainment (often paying money to do so). Video games are produced where the main goal is to shoot and kill as many people as possible – and we buy these games and play them for hours. We finish a movie or video game like this and we think, “That was cool and entertaining.” Our culture has a bipolar view of violence: we condemn it and enjoy it.
Scripture, however, isn’t bipolar when it comes to violence:
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. …So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them” (Gen 6:11, 13 NIV).
Psalm 11:5 says that the LORD hates the one who loves violence. Ezekiel prophesied that disaster would come to Israel because the city (Jerusalem) was full of violence (7:23). There are quite a few references in Scripture that talk about the sin of unjust violence, brutality, and bloodshed. Commenting on the 6th commandment, the Westminster Larger Catechism says it requires the preserving of life by “just defense thereof against violence” and it forbids unjustly “striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any” (Q/A 135-136). In a word, Christians should not delight in violence, but take a stand against it.
I appreciate Kent Hughes’ words on violence:
“What the Bible prohibits is the cultivation of a violent heart. In Scripture’s language, God is opposed to ‘the one who loves violence’ (Ps. 11:5) – those whom ‘violence covers …as a garment’ (Ps. 73:6), and those of whom it is said, ‘the desire of the treacherous is for violence (Prov. 13:2). The Bible rejects those who glory in violence as did Lamech (Gen. 4:23-24), and Simon and Levi, whose genocidal spree earned them a curse (Gen. 49:5-7)….
“In effect, the Scriptures declare an ominous ‘woe’ to violent hearts that glory in violence and promote it in the world. There are no beatitudes for the violent. Only ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Mt. 5:9).”
Hughes later writes about violence in the media and notes a study that said an average child sees around 8,000 murders and 100,000 violent acts on the screen before finishing elementary school – and these numbers more than double for a teen graduating high school. Hughes speaks a blunt word to Christians: “Woe to those in Christ’s church who passively view it [violence] – who fail to protect their homes and their children from its degenerating effects. Woe to a church culture in which Christian young people view violence at the same rate as the rest of the culture.”
Even if we think Hughes’ “woes” might be too harsh, I think the point stands.
The above quotes are found in chapter 5 of Kent Hughes’ Set Apart. (Note: this is a revamp of a blog post from June 2016.)