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calendar_today June 17, 2024
sell Violence

More Than Animals – Week 4 – Violence

person Mike Wilson

More Than Animals: Violence

Before diving into today’s topic, I want to start with a brief word about politics. I firmly believe that neither political nor military solutions can fully address the deep issues America faces today. While we do need good Christian people engaged in political battles, the core problem is too profound to be solved solely through these means. We need to win hearts first.

In 1973, a major shift occurred in American politics. Previously, Democrats and Republicans primarily contested economic and legal issues. However, once politicians entered the realm of morality, they struggled. Now, choosing between Democrat and Republican often means choosing a set of morals. We must stop trusting politicians to define our morals. There is no political solution to our problem; we need a spiritual solution.

We often speak about the revival sparked by John Wesley, but we seldom discuss its societal impact. The Wesleyan revival, along with George Whitfield’s efforts, saved England from a revolution similar to France’s. Secular media rarely tells this story.

Consider Tiananmen Square, known for the iconic image of a man standing before a tank. The secular narrative frames it as a victory for democracy, but that oversimplifies the truth. In reality, thousands of Christians were baptized in Tiananmen Square during a Christian revival.

We need a spiritual revival. Amen?

Violence: An Introduction

We’re in a series called More Than Animals, exploring what sets humans apart from animals. When someone says, “I’m not an animal,” they mean they won’t let their emotions control them. Today’s topic is one you might not have heard a sermon on before: Violence.

Watching nature shows about animals killing other animals is unsettling. The world is unimaginably violent, from fish eating fish in the sea to the constant struggles for survival. We must acknowledge that:

The world has a violence problem.

In recent years, both illegal and legal violence (war) have increased significantly. While I am not a pacifist and support fighting for those who cannot defend themselves, Paul’s words resonate deeply:

Romans 12:19-21: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Just War

We must consider what constitutes a just war. Here are five criteria based on Scripture:

  1. Legitimate Authority: War must be waged by a recognized authority, not by mobs, terrorists, or anarchists. God establishes rulers to govern people.
  2. Defensive, Not Offensive: Governments often label wars as defensive, but we must honestly evaluate the true motivations—protecting people or seizing resources.
  3. Fight Fighters: Avoid intentionally harming civilians. Target the aggressors, not the innocent.
  4. Preserve Life: Use proportional force, ensuring more lives are preserved than taken.
  5. Last Resort: War should be a last resort, not a knee-jerk reaction. We must be slow to respond.

The War of Hearts

The conflict in Israel is fundamentally a war of hearts. As long as the people of Gaza harbor hatred towards Israelis, groups like Hamas will continue to rise. Military action alone cannot change hearts, as we learned in Afghanistan.

This principle applies to our personal relationships as well. If you have a son who isn’t living as you’d like, a neighbor who neglects their yard, or a coworker who shirks responsibilities, you must find ways to change their hearts, not by shouting, but by setting an example.

Setting an Example

When we discuss violence, we’re not just talking about physical altercations. We’re also addressing those who act on angry impulses through social media posts, gossip, or retaliation. Show people you’re not the evil person they think you are. This is how we reduce hatred.

“Nothing good ever comes of violence.” – Martin Luther

Thousands of Ukrainian and Russian boys are dying over territorial disputes. This breaks my heart. The Israel-Hamas conflict, which has been ongoing for thousands of years, is an ancient family feud. Consider this story about King David:

1 Samuel 24:1-4: “After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! ‘Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, “I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.”‘ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.”

David had the chance to kill Saul and take the throne, but he knew God had a plan. He trusted God to handle vengeance and rescue.

1 Samuel 24:7-12: “So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. Then he shouted to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you…I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me.'”

David was not a pacifist; he was a giant slayer and a military hero. This is not a sermon against the military or war, but we must not act on violent impulses.

1 Samuel 24:16-17: “When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, ‘Is that really you, my son David?’ Then he began to cry. And he said to David, ‘You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil.'”

Personal Application

You will probably never have to decide whether to kill someone, but you will have to decide whether to gossip, post hateful messages on social media, or criticize your spouse. You will never fight your way to a better relationship. If you and your spouse fight frequently, the solution isn’t proving who is smarter or better. It’s about a submission competition—a contest of generosity.

Our 24/7 news media world is very angry, but we will only win hearts with Christlike love, relentless forgiveness, and generosity. That is why:

Love is the great command.

It’s the only method that actually works. However, this doesn’t always work with kids. Kids struggle with this because they are immature and act on impulse. They can be bullies at school because their sinful desires control them.

A toddler can receive a gift without showing gratitude. But as we mature, we learn to trust those who are kind and resist the mean. Let’s mature past violence and anger. We’re not animals.

Conclusion

We need to remember that we are more than animals. We are called to act with love, patience, and understanding, resisting the urge to retaliate or act on violent impulses. Let’s strive to win hearts and bring about a spiritual revival through our actions and attitudes. Amen?

 


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