Victory Over Violence

Challenge Central: a CBC devotional

By: Rev. Charlie Lyons

Recently, I Googled “violence in the news” and the results were astounding. On a typical day you will read of random acts of terror, mass murders by drug lords in Mexico, continued violent aggression of Russian troops in Ukraine, bloody tribal warfare in Africa, and a whole array of other notable demonstrations of the depravity of mankind. Outside the national news, local reports in any given locale will tell of gang violence, incidents of murder/suicides, sexual violence on campuses, workplace violence, and profoundly senseless shootings among family and friends.

Our greatest need in the face of overwhelming societal violence is not more legislation, greater political diplomacy, or more security systems. The real issue rests deep in the human heart. Violence is the expression of hearts and minds that have become polluted with the angry, murderous, prideful poison of a life apart from a holy and loving God.

Old Testament passages speak often of wickedness, pride, lying, injustice, spiritual unfaithfulness, robbery, greed, and murder – all in connection with violence. We see the heart of God grieved by violence and His judgment coming in societal ruin upon cities and nations because of their character of violence. Many of these accounts almost feel as if they could be modern-day headlines for Toronto, Ottawa, or even right here in Brantford.

So, what are some of the issues at the heart of violence? While the complexities and motivations of the human heart are hard for us to accurately diagnose, God knows the heart and His word gives us understanding about these things. On page after page of Scripture, the primary root cause of violent behaviour is pride – a self-centred existence. As we hear often from Central’s pulpit, we do what we do because we want what we want. The first heart reality – in a sense the sewer pipe through which all of this vile behaviour flows – is that people are “lovers of themselves” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

The woman or man who lives with self as the centre of their universe concludes, “I deserve more than I have” or “I have been deprived of what I need,” so they will take from others what they want, sometimes at any cost. When a prideful heart encounters a personal failure, relational difficulties, or obstacles to selfish aspirations, natural emotions become negative, raging passions that result in destructive thoughts and even violent behaviour.

But, friends, there’s a better way. With the Prince of Peace, there is always a better way, and we have hope in a violent world.

Thankfully, we can turn from the headlines back to God’s word for hope, lest we become despondent or paranoid in the midst of the pervasive violence. We can trust His providence and protection in this chaotic world, remembering the blessed truth that because of Christ’s empty tomb, his redemption has the power to neutralize pride and produce heartfelt humility. Jesus transforms His true disciple from a self-centred, agitated soul to a Christ-centered, grace-giving servant. The Apostle Paul’s often-repeated blessing in his writings of “grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” is a constant reminder of the possibilities of our experience in the face of disappointment, failure, and relational pain.

Friends, when we experience an authentic relationship of submission and trust in God, we will not be continually overtaken by the negative emotions so common in the human experience. Rather, as Philippians 4:7 promises, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Our anger can be replaced with forgiveness.

Our revenge can be transformed into blessing.

Our violence can be converted into peace.

Today and every day, may it be so among us.

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