The debate about violence in our culture never ends. It gets louder every time there is a school shooting or mass homicide but it never goes away. Recently, in the wake of the murders in Santa Barbara and after the school shooting in Newton, the debate has been about gun control and mental illness. While it is good to have a debate, I am afraid that a key factor is being ignored- the wrong thinking that is at the heart of murderous acts
Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught that anger and devaluing others are equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:21-22). The road to murder begins with a thought, the thought that something is more important than someone.
We live in a world where humans are no longer seen beings as of infinite worth, no longer see them as created in the image of God. Many individuals lack a well defined moral construct as many do not believe in God at all. Our children are consistently taught that human existence is the result of mindless chance, that people are just another animal, and that their feelings and desires are what matters the most. The end result is a world where life and people are demeaned and trivialities are emphasized.
I recently had a patient who was angry at his neighbor, so angry he thought he might resort to a physical response. The neighbor’s stupidity had resulted in water damage to my patient’s car. While it was clear from the story that the neighbor was a jerk, my patient seemed to have forgotten that he was a jerk created in the image of God, a jerk whose jerkiness did not diminish his overall value. As a result, in the response of the patient, the car mattered more than the person.
Our society has placed incredible importance on the value of individual feelings and has encouraged individuals to value themselves and worked to make every child feel special and deserving. In so doing we have missed the Biblical value that we should view others as having value equal or greater to our own. We have moved away from the concept of sacrifice for others and toward the pursuit of individual pleasure.
We have reached a place where we measure others by how they make us feel. Offend me with a Facebook post? You are deserving of humiliation. Use politically incorrect speech? You deserve to be silenced. Hurt my feelings? You deserve to be hurt back. Cut me off on the freeway? Capital punishment is appropriate.
How different would our world be if we actually believed what Jesus taught and put others first? What would happen to the rate of violent crime if we placed the same value on human life as Jesus did? It seems to me that teaching, "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend," is a value increasingly absent from our culture.
Something to think about!
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