1 Samuel 15: 2-3 – This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as the came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’.
Matthew 5: 38-42 – You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’. But I tell you: Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Violence has been a problem since the beginning of civilization. War and violence continues to destroy human life and creating countless widows, orphans, homeless and disabled people. It seems that the only way to stop or restraint violence is to use another violence to people who are doing it. But then when will it stop?
When this article was written, there was massive scale of civil riot in Middle East, especially Syria. A few Japanese factories in China had been destroyed by ultra-nationalists in response to arrest of some Chinese in disputed island between China and Japan. A week before, a plot by Islamic extremists to bomb Federal Reserves was discovered in New York.
As if it is harmless thing, mainstream entertainment industry continues to present violence as a cool thing. Video games, movies and cartoons are depicting unrealistic characters who somehow are able to acrobatically avoid most explosions, gunshots and assaults and enjoying it. And somehow most teenagers and young adults, including me, still come to watch those entertainment although we unconsciously acknowledge that we do not want to experience such thing for real. We enjoy it because we put ourselves in the protagonists’ position and not countless victims of that violence that are anonymous throughout the movie.
Put to all these things are the abuse of freedom of speech. We are acting as if violence is only unacceptable if it is physical violence. However, verbal violence is perfectly legal. There are no legal persecution for ranting and insulting someone calling them stupid, ugly and fatty. People are calling each others names such as fascist, Taliban, KKK, communist, anarchist, anti-Christ, and countless other things for little disagreement on political issues. The popularity of racist or religious (or anti-religious) jokes in internet should tell us that most humans will be violent if there is no civil law to restraint them.
A very important question is that: What should we do to stop violence? The fastest and simplest way if it is already beyond repair is mass extermination, which has been done previously in the day of Noah (Genesis 6: 7). Obviously, it is not really desirable for most people and also too cruel. Love and patience will still be preferred by most people but sometimes violent to prevent more violence is inevitable.
Does Bible advocate holy war (jihad) or pacifist way to solve problems? The fact that there are two contradictory verses on the beginning of this article will empower skeptics to point out that Bible is such ancient and unreliable book and therefore we cannot use it for our moral guideline.
It is not like God suddenly changed from fierce tyrant in Old Testament to hippie liberal in New Testament. After all, there are verses that advocate reconciliation to your enemies in Old Testament although they are hardly mentioned (Exodus 23: 4-5; Proverbs 25: 21-22; Deuteronomy 22: 1-4). Also, New Testament is not as so pacifist as its first impression. There are some ‘violent’ verses in New Testament like Jesus’ curse on fig tree (Mark 11: 12-14), he overturned table of money changers (Matthew 21: 12-13), he told his disciples to buy sword (Luke 22: 36), Apostle Paul cursed sorcerer and made him blind (Acts 3: 9-12), and so on.
In the real world, we also know that both confrontational and persuasive approach to solve conflict are needed in specific situations. To achieve goals, persuasive methods are preferred if we knew that involved parties are open to accept or accommodate changes in their views. However, if other parties are hostile to our goals and we are more convinced in the nobility of our goals than the intention of other parties then confrontational approach will be used. Not only it is wrong to do violence when it is not necessary, it is also wrong for not doing violence when it is necessary to do so.
Discernment is needed to know when to use or not use violence. May our Lord who is both man of War (Exodus 15: 3) and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 6) endow us with discernment to know right time for peace and war.