struggling with violence (including the violence in the Bible)

Last evening a notorious terrorist group claimed responsibility for bombings and shootings in Paris which claimed the lives of over 120 people with a number of more lives, in critical condition, weighing in the balance. Peter Enns charts out his approach to this, partly dismissive of thoughts of violence in retaliation to evil or injustice. Even open to a practical rejection of words attributed to Jesus, if they don’t fit in the parameters of the Jesus the Bible ultimately reveals. Even the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, not enduring this scrutiny. As always, Peter Enns is thoughtful and engaging.

I can’t track with everything in scripture. For one thing, much of it is in an Ancient Near East setting in many ways foreign to our own. Evil is just as real now, but more often than not simply different.

But I can’t track with everything in “the real world,” either. The evil done last night is beyond comprehension as to how despicable it is. One can’t deny that surely the function of the state as described in Romans 13 is in place in part to deal with and restrain this kind of evil in a broken world.

The Bible is very much set in the real world. Read (or listen) through it once, and you will surely agree. If I see evil as a mystery, even though I not only experience some of it, but am guilty of something of it myself, than how can I pretend to know what judgment is fitting? Even more than that, how can I begin to question God’s judgment or justice? That is surely well beyond me.

What we have to keep coming back to again and again is the cross of Christ in which he absorbed in himself the most focused evil ever, and in so doing somehow overcame all evil through his death and resurrection. So that all who put their faith in him are henceforth forevermore to live in God’s peace, in his shalom- in God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus.

Whatever evil has happened, it is not too much for God to deal with in a righteousness which not only judges, but saves. Christ took the brunt of evil, so that whatever evil we see, face, or have participated in- is not beyond his redemption, beyond his saving grace.

The gospel and the church are to be the means by which this salvation is offered and received, and good kingdom realized.

In the meantime, we groan and pray for the full redemption to come (Romans 8), as we see both the unimaginable evil, and God’s ways in this present order in significant part through less than ideal means. Which makes our prayers and waiting for the full consummation of God’s kingdom come in Jesus all the more pointed and consumming.

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