Meaning in Violence?

4.  The Meaning Of Violence

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ makes it possible for violence to be used by God for his good and virtuous purposes.  By Jesus’ virtuous/violent death, the meaning of my violence is changed.

When the brutalized and risen One pursued me, caught me, turned me toward himself and joined me to himself by his Spirit, he immediately and fundamentally changed the meaning of violence in my life (among other things).  He removed the wrath of God from me.  I was no longer a child of wrath, but a child of righteousness.  My identity and nature were changed.

From that point, I no longer needed to exercise violence for brutality’s sake, for I had been forgiven.  My relationship with my Creator had been restored.  The bitterness that drove brutality had been uprooted by Christ.  And He began to persistently (and slowly) remove the vestiges of wrath (brutality) that were the essence of my previous nature.  I was still capable of being brutal, but I was no longer a brutal person identified by wrath.  Brutal behavior no longer fit the person I had become and was becoming.  I was freed to use violence in a new way.  It started to become my servant, instead of my master, and could now be used for reconciliation, unity—even peace!  Now, I started to withhold violence when appropriate, and to exercise it with patience, expecting God to accomplish his purposes in me and others according to his plans and time line.

Outside of my union with Christ, I may have been able to set aside my brutal behaviors and attitudes.  But on my own, I would never have been able to change the very meaning of the violence.  It is Jesus Christ in me who does this.

Sometimes I am aware of how God uses my violence to confront or expose.  When I am aware, I am often also very uncomfortable.  I feel exposed, like I am the one being confronted!  And herein lies a paradox of God’s ways.  He uses us with all our weaknesses and fears to violate another person’s will for their sake as well as ours.  He surprises us by making us confrontational.  He causes us to detest sin, and uses the means of human confrontation to violently (and lovingly) remove it from us.

This process often feels like death because we still cling desperately to some of the comfort and familiarity of our old nature.  But the vestiges of brutality must be removed for our good.  And if Christ had to die on a cross of torture to initiate this process, then surely the continuation of the process is going to involve violence.  Outside of Christ, violence is brutal and causes harm.  But in Christ, violence can be for my good and the good of those with whom I relate.

I want to stop here and acknowledge that my discussion of violence may be quite confusing to the reader.  If you are nodding with agreement at this acknowledgment, I don’t blame you.  I frequently get confused when I try to think carefully about what God is doing with my violence.  At any given point, I’m unsure if God is eradicating my violence, making it different, redirecting it, or doing something else.  However, I believe he is redeeming it, or remaking it, as he is remaking me.  I further believe that the remaking is a long slow process.  And I further believe that the thing he wants to remove from me is brutality, not violence (for not all violence brutalizes).  I don’t have a full grasp of what is taking place in my heart.  But I write about what I believe because I want to understand better and I want others to journey with me into an exploration of violence.

I also want to acknowledge that it may appear I am only using words to manipulate the meaning of violence.  Please know, it is not my desire to be merely clever (though I have a taste for the clever), but to ascertain truth in every area of life and as much as possible.  I am convicted that God, in Christ, has made me a less brutal person and, at the same time, increased my desire to see evil people come to a violent end.  The implications of this are astounding and I am only just beginning to realize them.

Violence is an uncomfortable topic and we have very little training in our culture for how to talk about it and how to use it.  But learning the meaning of violence is essential for all who hold a biblical Christian worldview.  In the next post, I will begin to explore the idea that violence can actually help our society.

CLICKHERE to read the entire essay.

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