by Dr. Steve Bolton
Our country has again been shocked and grieved by senseless murders and mayhem. Does it not seem that America is afflicted and even infected by violence? Hardly a month goes by that random citizens aren't victimized by some miserable, angry young man with a gun who feels justified in wounding and destroying human life. Anger and insanity have always been at work in the world and, certainly, in this country. Our nation has too often suffered the tragedy of cold blooded assassinations: Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and others. Politics and racial hatred have always incited violence. Yet, today, there is evidence of an unnamed, but seething rage bubbling just below the surface. Since the University of Texas massacre in 1966, there have been over 100 school shootings in the United States, with Columbine High (2004), the Amish School (2006), and Virginia Tech (2007) murders among the most senseless and shocking. America suffered eleven school shootings in 2010, and already in 2011 another has occurred in Omaha, Nebraska. These troubling situations point to an epidemic of anger. How easily we escalate and intimidate. Too often retribution is justified and revenge glorified. It seems as if America has become addicted to anger and the false sense of power that using angry words or dangerous weapons gives us.
I recall a story about a man who was held up and threatened with death by a bandit if he didn't give him his money. As the robber brandished his sword in his face, the man confessed that he had no money. But pointing at a nearby tree he said, “But if you are going to take my life, grant me two dying wishes. First, cut off the branch of that tree.” The thief swung his sword and the branch fell to the ground. “Now what?” he asked. “Now put the branch back again,” the man said. “You must be crazy. No one can do that!” the bandit said. Then the would-be victim replied, “On the contrary. You are crazy to think you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. The truly mighty are those who know how to create and heal.” As the story goes, this caused the bandit to spare the man. It’s only a story, but there’s truth in the statement that the true power in life is not to be found in either anger or violence, only in healing and creating.
For Christians, these violent events are not cause to despair...only reasons to witness to true Power. We who follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace, have the creative power of His healing touch in our hands and hearts. There are many situations where we, as servants of Christ, by acting with His compassion, self-control, and patience can bring healing and life. It is time for Christians to quell destructive anger, control our tongues, wage Christ's peace, promote God's goodwill, proclaim and exhibit the power of God's love and forgiveness. In every public and private discourse this wounded world desperately needs a Christian witness of reconciliation and an example of Christian kindness. Therefore, in an angry and violent world, let us be instruments of His peace.
Steve Bolton is the pastor of Oxford Baptist Church in Oxford, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, "The Forecaster."