The murder rate in the United States has risen by more than 22 percent in the last two years, according to a recent article at the New York Times. While such violence troubles a watching world, Christians have no reason to be bewildered.
Thomas Abt, author of the opinion piece, also adds that “Violent crime — which includes rapes, robberies and assaults, in addition to homicides — is also up, but less so, rising 4 percent, after a 4 percent incrase in 2015.” He summarizes these statistics as “a two-year spike in death and violence.”
Throughout the article, Abt refrains from pinpointing a direct cause of this “spike.” But he does indicate the various responses that various partisan groups will likely assume, aptly noting the certain ideological tendencies of these groups that influence their distinct views on violence.
Transitioning to his own response to the violence rates, Abt insists that “[w]e need a new national dialogue on crime, one that is less about ideology and more about evidence…. We need to move from argument winning to problem solving, recognizing that all these issues are related to one another, and especially to the violence that needlessly claims so many lives.”
His suggests that we stop trying to identify the root cause of violent crime and instead address the violence head-on “with a combination of empathy and resolve, offering assistance if it will be accepted but also accountability for brutal behavior.”
Abt’s advice is a reasonable suggestion for guiding community’s responses to crime in the future. In fact, its combination of grace and justice seems to even echo biblical perspectives on responding to evil.
However, Abt’s article still leaves the reader with that one gnawing question: what is the root cause of this violence?
To the Christian, the answer appears in the opening chapters of the historical account in Genesis. We know that the human heart is corrupt as a result of the Fall. That event is at the root of all violence and is the real reason why all violence issues seem to be related, as Abt himself observed. From Adam and Eve, through their murderous son Cain, and now to us all, violence has spread like a cancer. As the Apostle Paul says, we live in “bodies of death” (Romans 7:24).
But, thanks be to the Lord Jesus Christ, violence and death aren’t permanent fixtures in this universe. Both the justice and mercy of God—who cannot tolerate evil and yet loves sinners—were satisfied in the person and work of Christ. Because of him, we will one day witness the eucatastrophic end of all sin and death. This foolishness of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Such knowledge gives us a whole new perspective on these statistics about murders and violent crimes. Rather than causing us to experience the worry and fear that Abt notes in his article, the wisdom of God allows Christians to approach these disturbing facts of life with less confusion and more confidence. As J. I. Packer describes it in his book Knowing God, writing, “[T]he effect of [God’s wisdom] is to make us … less troubled (not less sensitive, but less bewildered) than we were at the dark and painful things of which our life in this fallen world is full.”
As Abt’s article says, we should continue to seek out tangible temporary solutions to these issues of violence. However, even in all of our attempts to balance justice and grace in response to violence, we should not be bewildered by the presence of evil. Rather, we must seek the wisdom of God and find hope in his Word, remembering that Christ is the ultimate solution to the increasing violence we encounter.
Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for BreakPoint.org, ChristianAnswers.net/Spotlight, and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at aworldofgrasspeople.blogspot.com.
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Publication date: September 27, 2017