These are trying times, or so I am told. But I suspect that every generation thinks that. On one level each generation faces different tasks, decisions, and problems, and yet at the very human level, much of it remains the same. The form may change, but the cause and effect often do not. There is one aspect of the current era that demands our attention and it’s the propensity to violence.
Personally, I find myself frequently surprised by how quickly people are willing to both turn to violence and justify it in the face of dissension. My life has been one of travel these last few weeks and the experience has been a bit troubling. While in the capital city of one particular province, my family and I inadvertently walked in on a protest, thankfully a peaceful one, against the government for reasons not needed to be discussed here. Only a few days later I was in Buenos Aires when just a few blocks from my hotel what appears to have been a peaceful protest quickly turned violent with riot polices resorting to water cannons and tear gas as people destroyed businesses, set trash bins on fire and overturned barricades intent on as much destruction as possible, again for reasons not worth noting here. Finally, while at the hotel we turned on the news to be informed of a series of bombs that had been set to prominent people in the United States. This comes on the heels of public proclamations from politicians that we need to uncivilized and disruptive with others in order to be heard, again for reasons not worth discussing here.
The call to violence is not national; it is not cultural; instead, it seems to be crossing borders and traveling internationally. Certainly, many are aware of the issues that have created such a divided world and some may argue with me that the issues are not worth discussing here. If that’s the case, you’re wrong and here’s why. First, my goal on this blog is to be biblically-oriented, and so when I take on cultural news events, I do so with the purpose of evaluating them biblically. Many of the issues that have provoked the state of division that we are in are matters of conscience (and if they are not, then I’ve previously dealt with them in other posts). Additionally, it does not matter the issue in this case, because there is absolutely no excuse for the unprovoked violence against people and property that we are seeing take place.
Disagreements are nothing new. Even an emotional response is nothing new. Many of us respond emotionally to hundreds of situations in a day. This is part of being human. The proclivity to create disorder and disturbances at the slightest provocation though seems to be flourishing. There are three characteristics that seem to be common regardless of where the disruption is taking place:
Pride: Pride is a deceptive motivator, often masquerading as something else (I’m ashamed that I’ve often passed my pride off as something nobler). When our pride is at stake the natural inclination is not humble, grace-filled responses, but to fight.
Selfishness: As James notes in his wisdom-filled epistle, sin is not born of God, but of man and comes from the selfish desires that wage war within us. The demonstrations we see are born out of desires motivated by personal wants and expectation that one’s progress towards that want should not be impeded.
Lack of Compassion: Finally, there is a lack of compassion within the ranks of the protestors that causes individuals to act in an even more horrendous way.
Working together, these characteristics create an explosive cocktail in which the brokenness of society will overwhelm composed, rationale, and temperate manner of association with one another. We as human beings, appear to be losing the ability to see humanity as human.
There is fear by some that society has lost control of its own and we are no longer before the point of no return. In one sense, that may be true in that sin reigns and until there is an outbreak of gospel-proclamation to the people and God-affirmation by the people, change will be unrealized. Here is an insider’s lesson: it’s only by Christ’s return and reign things will change, but that does not mean Christian responsibility in the modern era is neglected. Therefore, we look to change by recognizing something important: the catalyst must come from a humble, God-oriented leadership who models this behavior first.
Al Mohler writes, “Trouble in the City of Man is a call to action for the citizens of the City of God . . . Christians may well be the last people who know the difference between the eternal and the temporal, the ultimate and the urgent (this quote comes from his book, Culture Shift, which I am in the process of reading). To be involved with the world does not mean the adoption of worldly beliefs. Instead, it means our method of seeing transformation is proclaiming truth and our model for doing so is one of graciousness and love. Ultimately, we understand that transformation is not a work between believers and unbelievers, but between God and unbelievers. Yet, if the model for such godliness is broken, then we have failed our due diligence in stewarding the people of God and directing them towards Him.
Ultimately, secularism is not going to solve the core heart attitude that we see at play. Neither are Christians. God can and he uses people to move people. Therefore, let us incline ourselves more to Him so that he may use us to motivate others towards Him as well. These are troubled times, but they are not so troublesome that God cannot work.
The photo “Demonstration to protest . . .” courtesy of user Jeanne Menjoulet and Flickr.