Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

When Violence Is Acceptable

Unmentioned in our society is an interesting contradiction that has taken root. It is a contradiction of violence. Unfortunately, the outcome of this particular contradiction can have treacherous consequences because it advocates the use of disorder and disturbance resulting in destruction. As a result, it is necessary to consider the appropriateness, approval, and consequences of such a topic in our societal dialogue.
In the last four years, we can point to many instances when people have utilized the mob mentality to gain attention and support for their cause. Some peaceful, some destructive, and others that began peacefully only to turn destructive. Yet, each group claims justification for their actions based upon the perceived goodness that results. Violence and discord are becoming the standard form of garnering attention and accomplishing desirable results.

From Missouri to Maryland, Washington State to Washington D.C. there have been plenty of opportunities for people to justify their anger. Regardless of one’s views on the issues that drove those events, one thing is certain: this is how we get things done, simply by creating cultural chaos and dividing destructively. So acceptable is this form of advancement that frequent advocation from those in authority is present. Proponents calls range from peaceful protest to domestic disobedience, and even to the most extreme form of afflictive assaults. Open advocation with little accountability indicates how acceptable this form of societal progress has become.

Incited by the right cause, every person can justify his or her own actions with each argument coming back to one of two basic and repeated arguments: (1) Deontological: the ends justifies the means, or (2) Utility: the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The result is that few are held accountable for their actions and even fewer question the appropriateness of them, specifically asking when the use of force, destruction, and violence are OK. The short answer is that there is only one time when such behavior is justified.

To evaluate the appropriateness of this type of activity, there are only two questions that need to be asked:
  • Does it contribute to the good of God’s created people?
  • Does it glorify God?
While simply asked, each question demands a few qualifiers for consideration.
There are a lot of ideologies that exist for the ‘good of the people.’ Yet, those ideologies are frequently the ones creating the most division (1). So what constitutes being for the good of the people. The ones that cause them to acknowledge their need for God and generate deep conviction about their relationship with him. Never will violence and destruction result in the good of people. Instead, it will always generate harm to someone or some group.
Therefore, if violence and destruction will generate harm, it automatically detracts (not attracts) to the glory of God. These actions are taken at the expense of God’s creation, and specifically against people who were created in God’s image, resulting in an extreme dishonoring of God. Furthermore, almost with certainty, the reaction to such activity will propel others to reject God even more. Citing the behavior as hypocritical and unloving, it is easy for unbelievers to make the case that there is a need to run away from God not to God.
We can only reach one conclusion then: whenever humans use violence and destruction as a means for promoting their cause, they are in the wrong (2). But did my earlier premise not state that there is one time when it is OK? Yes, when it is God’s intended action. At various points we see God act violently against the people, notably destroying most of humanity (The Flood) and even complete cities (Sodom & Gomorrah). That premise will anger many people, questioning why God’s violence is OK and man’s is not. The answer is simple: God is holy (1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 6:3; Leviticus 19:2). Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, at times demonstrated anger, but he was completely without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). That holiness transforms the purpose of God’s violence into judgment. Judgment, while unpleasant, is for the good of God’s people and brings glory to God.

The distinction between man’s violence and God’s wrath is critical in both how we think about God and how we function on behalf of God. That distinction is hard to maintain because our society has created a paradox in which man’s violence is acceptable while God’s judgment is not. It is pertinent then to once again recognize how a deep love for God will be reflected in a deep love for others, which will be demonstrated by our actions that are contrary to a secular society.

(1) Not wanting to spend a lot of time defending this statement at the moment, I point you to several major areas that you can consider and research: (a) Socialism in Venezuela and the current state of their people, (b) the movement to love yourself before you can love others and its contribution to selfishness, and (c) the transformation of narcissism to self-esteem and its effect on the egos and self-exaltation.

(2) Please note: We are talking about civil disobedience that is becoming a common form of accomplishing social agenda. I’m not referring to instances of self-defense, defense of family, or other similar circumstances. That is a completely different discussion and so nothing said in this article should be used to affirm or deny particular actions under those circumstances.

Photo “Brazil-Protests” courtesy of user Semilla Luz and Flickr.

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