The problem of violence

Attitudes must shift in order to be closer to the perspective of Jesus Christ, which will lead to meaningful peacebuilding.

By Erica Lea

I remember when the Columbine High School shootings happened in 1999. Schools across the country went into lockdown. Most of us were left mouths open watching news reports, trying to process and understand what happened and why. Schools and other public places quickly channeled significant energy toward planning how to respond if an “active shooter” was on their grounds. These days another school shooting is all too familiar.

From Columbine in 1999 until the recent Reynolds High School shooting in Troutdale, Ore., there have been over 140 school shooting incidents resulting in over 200 deaths with many more injuries. There has been a particularly marked increase in school shootings since 2010. These shootings happened in rural and urban areas; in elementary, junior high and high schools; and on university campuses. Shooters were children, teens and adults. There have been shootings and other acts of atrocious violence in malls, movie theatres and even houses of worship.

The problem of violence is not only for certain people such as the mentally disturbed or shadowy strangers in alleyways or people in poverty or school campuses or young people or shady areas of town. The problem of violence is everywhere and is everyone’s problem. Yes. You. Yes. Me.

Violence is not only a result of actions with weapons — guns, drones, bombs, knives, fists. Violence is also an attitude. An attitude of competition and entitlement. An attitude of fear and pride. Violence is often bred by fear and perpetuates fear in a vicious cycle. God is in the business of changing that cycle and we, as Christians, as Christ-followers, are called to join God’s work in peacemaking.

Jesus goes through a litany of people in difficult circumstances in the Beatitudes and calls each group blessed. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” To be a child of God is to be a peacemaker. To be a peacemaker is to be a child of God. Peacemaking is not optional for people who call themselves Christians. Peacemaking is a difficult calling, but it is a calling for all Christians.

God’s peacemaking and final restoration is a process that includes the now and the not yet. This world is a construction zone with all of us called to join God in being construction workers. There is a rebuilding process from the former ways of violence — in action or attitude — to Jesus’ ways of peace and reconciliation. Peacebuilding is a Christian calling. Step by step. Little by little.

It is not enough not to contribute to violence. We are called to contribute to peace. Our attitudes must individually, congregationally, nationally and internationally shift in order to be closer to the attitude and perspective of Jesus Christ which will lead to meaningful peacebuilding. Step by step. Little by little.

God is in the business of peacemaking and peacebuilding by Jesus Christ showing us a better way to live faithfully, and by the Holy Spirit comforting and guiding us each day as we move to a fully peaceful eternal reality in perfect harmony with God. Peace with God and peace with neighbor mirrors the greatest commandments to love God and love neighbor. Peacebuilding is love. Love is peacebuilding.

As the familiar hymn, Lord, Send a Revival, by Baylus Benjamin McKinney says:

Send a revival, O Christ, my Lord,
Let it go over the land and sea.
Send it according to Thy dear Word,
And let it begin in me.
Lord, send a revival,
Lord, send a revival,
Lord, send a revival,
And let it begin in me.
Send a revival in ev’ry heart,
Draw the world nearer, O Lord, to Thee.
Let Thy salvation true joy impart,
And let it begin in me.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.