Why the Violence?

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Psalms 140


I.         Another act of violence, and people naturally want to know why. Why is this happening? What can we do to prevent it? How can we feel safer?

            A.        People grasp at simple solutions and quick fixes that really don’t fix anything and often are not even relate to the problem

                        1.         Rocks don’t cause stonings, knives don’t cause stabbings, and guns don’t cause shootings.

                        2.         Limiting the access to one weapon only means other weapons will be sought out

                        3.         And still the reasons why some are using weapons are not addressed

            B.        It has been correctly noted that violence against the innocent has been increasing. It wasn’t this way a few decades ago, which ought to cause us to ask: What has changed?

II.        Violence is not a new problem. It is spoken of extensively in the Bible

            A.        It is a moral problem

                        1.         The violent do not have God before them - Psalms 54:3

                        2.         Thus, the point that one change is the lack of God in schools is true

                        3.         God’s teaching keeps people off the path of violence - Psalms 17:4-5

                        4.         But it is not just in schools, the problem also stems from the home - Psalms 58:1-3

                        5.         People grow up not knowing how to do right - Amos 3:10

            B.        Sinful people tend to be violent

                        1.         Notice the relationship of violence, strife, iniquity and mischief - Psalms 55:9-13

                        2.         Laws are ignored - Habakkuk 1:2-4

                        3.         We have violence because some people are just plain wicked - Jeremiah 15:21

            C.        No love for fellow man and no respect for life

                        1.         Cruelty to animals - Proverbs 12:10

                        2.         Arrogant - Psalms 86:14

                                    a.         Often among the rich - Micah 6:12

                                    b.         Have you noticed that most of the violent come from wealthy families?

                                    c.         These are the people with time on their hands and whose wealth deceives them into thinking they are superior to others. And the wealth allows them to purchase the tools and men of violence - Psalms 73:6-7

                        3.         Hosea 4:1-2 - No mercy or kindness

                        4.         Some notice that shooters are often lonely, isolated people. They don’t connect with others, so there is no sympathy or love for their fellow man

            D.        Eager and without thinking about the consequences

                        1.         While often planned in detail, the focus is on the event and not the results - Proverbs 24:1-2

                        2.         Isaiah 59:6-8 - Rash, no peace

                        3.         Refuse to do justice - Proverbs 21:7

            E.        Troublemakers

                        1.         Rebellious. Won’t listen - Psalms 58:3-5

                        2.         They break all restraints - Hosea 4:2

            F.        Hatred

                        1.         A violent hatred - Psalms 25:19

                        2.         Telling of lies to incite violence - Psalms 27:12

III.       Evil spreads

            A.        Desensitized by exposure

                        1.         Evil companions corrupt - I Corinthians 15:33

                        2.         Conscience becomes seared - I Timothy 4:2

                        3.         It is the way of sin - Ephesians 4:17-19

            B.        Hidden in their words - Proverbs 10:6,11

            C.        Treacherous or untrustworthy - Proverbs 13:2

            D.        Promoted

                        1.         Entices neighbors and leads others into evil - Pr 16:29-30

                        2.         Join for power, wealth, and belonging - Proverbs 1:10-14

                        3.         Desire to do evil and get others to join - Proverbs 4:14-17

            E.        Join the crowd - Exodus 23:2

                        1.         Emboldened when seeing others doing evil

                        2.         People who would not normal act violent can get caught up in it - Acts 19:28-29, 32

                        3.         “In his [Granovetter’s] view, a riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them. Social processes are driven by our thresholds — which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them. In the elegant theoretical model Granovetter proposed, riots were started by people with a threshold of zero — instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two. His qualms are overcome when he sees the instigator and the instigator’s accomplice. Next to him is someone with a threshold of three, who would never break windows and loot stores unless there were three people right in front of him who were already doing that—and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyone around him was grabbing cameras from the electronics store. Granovetter was most taken by the situations in which people did things for social reasons that went against everything they believed as individuals. “Most did not think it ‘right’ to commit illegal acts or even particularly want to do so,” he wrote, about the findings of a study of delinquent boys. “But group interaction was such that none could admit this without loss of status; in our terms, their threshold for stealing cars is low because daring masculine acts bring status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy.” You can’t just look at an individual’s norms and motives. You need to look at the group.” [Malcolm Gladwell, “Thresholds of Violence”, The New Yorker, October 19, 2015]

                        4.         But it can also happen more gradually just by hearing about other acts of violence.

IV.      Not slowed

            A.        No one assigns fault or reproves - Hosea 4:3-4

            B.        Sin increases when there is no restraint - Exodus 32:25

            C.        Evil increases when not punished quickly - Ecclesiastes 8:11

                        1.         Gambler’s impulse - Nothing bad happened this time, so it may not happen the next time either

            D.        No repentance leads to violence - Psalms 7:12-16

V.        Outcome

            A.        They die, trapping themselves in their own violence

                        1.         Psalms 37:34-36

                        2.         Proverb 1:15-19

            B.        God hates those who love violence - Psalms 11:5-7

                        1.         He finds those who kill the innocent especially disgusting - Proverbs 6:16-17

            C.        There isn’t just one cause of violence, but there is one solution – Jesus Christ

                        1.         It is a solution you and I need individually and the one society, as a whole, desperately needs.

                        2.         So let us turn the world upside down with the good news of peace

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