It seems the world is becoming a more violent place.
Then again, it always has been.
Wherever people don’t get their own way or feel disenfranchised, violence is never far away. Wherever greed, anger and sexual urges are not kept in check, there lurks the possibility of using violent means to get what we want, or think we are entitled to, or deserve.
That is true not only between countries over territory and resources, but on our roads over lane position, and sadly, we are becoming more and more aware of the violence hidden behind closed doors in homes.
This includes the homes of Christians, the very place that God designed to be a place of nurture and a sanctuary from the rough and tumble of daily life.
Churches are not immune from this scourge of violence and the Royal Commission into sexual abuse of children within institutions has left no denomination of the Christian church guilt free.
‘Worship wars’ is a violent expression sometimes used in the church to describe how we want our own way when it comes to worshipping God together.
How incongruous is that! Shutting people down in conversations, subtle and not so subtle threats, and putting people down, are all forms of violence. At least that is how we experience those things if we are on the receiving end.
I urge you to pray deeply and earnestly about our human tendencies to inappropriate and even violent behaviour towards others in our attempt to get our own way over something, including in our homes and congregations.
Study the scriptures, especially the New Testament letters on both sinful and Godly behaviours, and responses to our impulses and situations in life.
Watch out for each other, confront all forms of violence – especially against the vulnerable, and speak up and speak out appropriately on behalf of victims and potential victims.
Please work together to ensure that our congregations and homes are safe places to be, so that faith can be nurtured unhindered.
Commit to never using scripture to justify the control, oppression or abuse of others. And where you hear, see or experience violence, please say something.
‘Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.’ (Romans 12:9)
God is our ultimate safe-place, our refuge and strength, and our ever present help.
The motivating and transforming power for living as Christians is the love of God for us in Jesus Christ.
Christ’s sacrificial love at work in us is a love that overcomes self-interest and moves us to consider others and their needs, doing good not harm.
That does not mean being a doormat for others to trample on. ‘Speaking the truth in love’ in order to confront the sin of violence and abuse in all its forms will need to take place in order to ultimately address, heal and restore what has been broken.
‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’ (Galatians 5:19-25)
I pray that we in Christian community will look, listen and learn from what is being exposed all around us in the wider community, including in Christian churches in terms of violent behaviour.
Admit that it happens amongst us too. Seek forgiveness and comfort, healing and strength from our Lord, to address our own tendencies toward angry or violent responses and behaviour in all its forms.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control for the sake of a credible witness to the love of God that we know, experience and enjoy together in Jesus Christ.
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