Violence is defined as “physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing,” and sadly, violence is a part of everyday life. It’s in our movies and television shows, and we live in a world where power is often established through violence. But for Christians, the way of the world is always trumped by the truth of the Word. So what does the Bible say about violence?
First of all, violence in the mind is just as hurtful as violence by the hands. Leviticus 19:17 says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.” When we know someone is in sin, is it more loving to keep it quiet and build up hate and resentment towards them? God says that we should speak frankly, and Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:21-22 that murderous anger can lead the angry man to judgment from God as quickly as a physical blow. The violence he exhibits toward someone else can be brought back upon himself by God.
What about violence in war? Exodus 20:13 had been incorrectly translated as “do not kill,” but it literally means “do not murder.” God has allowed for just wars throughout the history of His people. From Abraham to Deborah to David, God’s people have fought as instruments of judgment from a righteous and holy God. Romans 13:1-4 tells us to submit ourselves to government authorities and that nations have the right to bear the sword against evildoers, both foreign and domestic.
Violence occurs, but we must recognize the difference between holy judgment on sin and our own personal vendettas against those we dislike, which is the inevitable outcome of pride (Psalm 73:6). While men are more prone to accept violence (especially as cultures depict real men as those who never cry, always have a plan, and carry a gun), the wisest man of all time wrote, “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31). Prayer and patience beats violence and anger on any day.