Why is there so much violence in the world? Why does North Korea continue to fire missiles and threaten the world with nuclear war? Why do terrorists continue to kill innocent men, women and children? Why does war continue in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq? Why do earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis strike?
My grandfather fought in the “War to End All Wars” from 1914 to 1918. But 20 years later the world was engulfed in another global conflict and the “War to End All Wars” became known, and largely forgotten, as World War I. Since World War II, America has been at war in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and several others lesser known places.
James explained violence this way: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2).
Jesus was under no illusion regarding our circumstances. He said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:6-7). “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
It is difficult to imagine the violence and cruelty of the first century. Crucifixion was common under Roman rule. More than 2,000 Jews were crucified and displayed on Galilean roads about the time Jesus was born following a revolt led by Judas ben Hezekiah. As far as we know every one of the Apostles, except John, was martyred. In spite of this, they lived their lives with hope, joy and peace.
Often persecuted and suffering for his faith in Christ, the Apostle Paul gave us this instruction: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
It is easy to give in to the relentless stream of negative news: wars, violence, abuse and natural disasters. Many see dark clouds gathering on the horizon with little hope for the future. But faith can withstand the most dismal circumstances.
For every act of violence we can find a thousand acts of kindness. The overwhelming floods in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico unleashed a greater flood of human kindness, courage and sacrifice. The same can be said for every terrorist attack and every war. God is present. Goodness will triumph. He will not leave us nor abandon us. The righteous will not be forsaken. Nothing can destroy the life of the spirit in Christ Jesus.