Mass shootings. Terror attacks. Gruesome murders. Why do such horrific acts fill today’s headlines?
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Sprawled on the couch, Dad watches a knife plunge into the stomach of a gang member who coughs up blood as he dies. The father dozes in and out of sleep, bathed in the flickering light of the television.
Upstairs, his son clenches a video game controller. He navigates a Navy SEAL to stealthily dispatch a guard by snapping his neck. His younger brother watches.
The next morning, Mom leans toward the bathroom mirror, applying eyeliner. Her clock radio reports the news: Single mother of three killed in burglary…children put in foster care. For a fleeting moment, her heart goes out to the children left parentless by such a meaningless act, but she quickly finishes applying the makeup to stay on schedule.
She descends the stairs and crouches to tie the laces of her daughter’s shoes. By the time the girl finishes elementary school, she will have seen about 8,000 TV murders.
A bed-headed Dad sits at the kitchen table, reading the daily newspaper over a bowl of cereal. He browses the headlines—“Couple Slay 14 in Murderous Rampage,” “Man Arrested for University Rape and Kidnapping,” “African Terror Group Has Killed 20,000 Since 2009”—then turns to the sports section.
Even for such a family, violence is commonplace, though removed from the everyday. For much of the global population, however, violent acts play out daily:
Tragically, every nation in the world is plagued with unbridled violence. The unending barrage of brutality and bloodshed can be numbing for everyone, whether they live in war-torn Syria or Suburbia, U.S.A.
From time to time, events shake the collective consciousness—Columbine, September 11, clashes between protestors and police during Black Lives Matter protests, terror attacks across Europe. Such tragic occurrences elicit the question: Why is the Earth filled with violence?
These events are often followed by a period of self-reflection. Then, amid the continuing onslaught of cruelty and viciousness, society again slowly becomes callous toward these acts and unwittingly falls into the jaded thinking that violence is a natural part of life.
Constant exposure to violence makes us less sensitive to it and can even lull us into thinking conditions are better than they really are.
Yet to truly make sense of a world saturated with violence, we must shake ourselves awake from this slumber and take a hard look at world conditions.
In an attempt to explain the phenomena of violence, scientists draw the conclusion that aggression is an innate characteristic. Charles Darwin felt it was born out of an instinctual animal trait needed for self-preservation. Sigmund Freud took it further, claiming aggression is one of two basic urges of mankind, along with sex, and that many of the urges occur at an unconscious level.
These ideas have seeped into public thinking. They are found in popular novels and feature films of today, which almost always rely on the tired themes of sex and violence. Newspapers have long known that stories with violence attract the most attention, and even formulated the maxim, “If it bleeds it leads”—the story with the highest body count will make the front page.
Religionists also buy into the thinking that violence is intrinsic to the human condition, though in a different way. Many churchgoers believe that deep down all people are essentially good and would obey God if given the chance. The thinking generally goes that mankind has been infected by sin, which often leads to violence.
To suppress what are seen as animalistic urges or actions of a body infected by sin, mankind has set up an intricate network of laws. In the West, much of this legislation is based on a Judeo-Christian code of morality: “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal,” etc. From these simple statements come countless anti-violence laws on child abuse, rape, battery and disorderly conduct, with a law for every type of murder—first degree, second degree, manslaughter and wrongful death.
While much of this moral code is apparently pulled from the Bible, it ignores what the Book actually states about the inner workings of mankind.
Unknown to most, the Bible contains a complete map of human nature, and explains how and why widespread violence persists today. These verses, when put together, reveal the true picture of mankind.
Chapter 17 of the book of Jeremiah states, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (vs. 9). Take this verse at face value. Each person’s heart is deceitful above all things—with all things meaning all things!—and each person is desperately wicked.
The epistle of James begins to explain the motivations behind widespread violence: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not…” (4:1-2).
Human beings are driven by their lusts—what they want. They attempt to satiate their lusts by whatever means, even if it means violence. In the end, however, their lives are left empty.
These verses paint a bleak picture, and leave little hope for mankind’s future. Ask: Is it really a surprise that Earth is filled with violence when deep down each person is desperately wicked?
It can be difficult to take an honest look at mankind because the track record is never pretty. It is a tale of murder, rape, war and vicious brutality.
There have been peaks of violence of the worst sort—ash clouds pluming from Nazi concentration camp smokestacks—conqueror Genghis Khan stating that the “greatest pleasure” in life is to chase and kill an enemy, then rape his wife—execution pyres crackling with the bodies of “heretics” during the Middle Ages.
One of the most violent times in history is described in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Most know the story of Noah. He built an ark and entered it, along with his family and pairs of animals. Then, it rained 40 days and 40 nights…
Yet this common retelling misses a crucial element. During that time, mankind reached one of its worst periods of violence. The book of Genesis records that before the flood, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Verse 11 states, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
In the days before Noah entered the ark, the entire Earth was filled with violence, with evil having free rein over the land. Yet life continued “business as usual.”
Matthew 24 describes this time: “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…” (vs. 38-39).
With a world overrun with violence, how could no one think anything was wrong? People began to view violence as a fact of life and believed conditions were better than they actually were.
Definitions of violence include exertion of physical force to injure—violent treatment—intense and furious destructive action—vehement expression. All these fill today’s world.
Yet the dictionary definition misses a huge element of violence and hides how truly pervasive it is.
The Bible alone completely defines this word. The Sixth Commandment states, “Thou shalt not kill.” But this command is amplified by the words of Jesus in the New Testament: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:21-22, Revised Standard Version).
In other words, anger toward another person without proper cause, even when it is unsaid, is a form of murder. With this added to the definition, the picture of an “earth filled with violence” comes into panoramic view.
Think. With this expanded definition, how many unreported murders occur every day? Husband against wife, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor—all in a world where people fly off the handle without notice!
This is an age of paradoxes. A suicide bomber explodes himself to kill and maim in the name of religion, and across the world a groom kisses his bride for the first time. A hotheaded brother dukes it out with his sibling over a girl, and elsewhere a father teaches his daughter to drive. A man harbors a bitter grudge against his neighbor for decades, and a 20-something tosses his graduation cap into the air at a nearby university.
Why is the world this way?
Societies have attempted for millennia to solve the problems of violence—not realizing the “way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings…” (Isa. 59:8). Man will continue fruitlessly trying to manufacture peace, only to bring even worse hatred and cruelty.
How can violence end? It starts with individuals realizing the extent that violence pervades their lives, and beginning to understand there is another way to live.
Notice Christ’s words in Matthew 5: “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (vs. 43-44).
Yet this cannot be done on human steam, because “the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
This violent, hopeless age naturally lulls people to sleep—unable to see that mankind is incredibly off-track.
God puts forth a simple instruction for those alive today: “Awake you that sleep…” (Eph. 5:14). Do not think that escape from a violence-filled Earth will come with the wave of a magic wand. It requires action!
You must admit that you are naturally hostile toward God, and can only navigate this pitch-black age through following His Law.
Notice Proverbs 6: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (vs. 23).
Do not let the day-in-day-out barrage of brutality numb you to the realities of this world. Stay alert, watch world events, and begin to “sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezek. 9:4).
Also, “See then that you walk circumspectly [live carefully], not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
The world was never meant to be filled with violence—and you can take comfort that it soon will not be. To understand how God will ultimately bring peace to this violence-filled Earth, read How World Peace Will Come!