Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Does God Use Violence?

Could God have initiated the riots, using the frustrations of the disenfranchised to cause his people to rethink? Is God behind the violent overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya? Isaiah talks of the events of Israel's history declaring God's hand as being behind them. Is it really possible that God would motivate violence and possibly war for the security of his people and their salvation?

When I review the state of the Christian church, there are those churches were the prosperity gospel clearly dominates but even outside these churches, prosperity is clearly a measure of God's blessing. Finding God's peace and confidence in the midst of a struggle to survive and change the world is not seen as God's blessing. Rather the emphasis is being at peace with the possessions that God has given. More accurately, the possessions gained through our labours that conform to our dominant systems. Systems that despite their obvious casting of people on to the scrap heap and into poverty, are seen as being what God has given us and as a consequence should not be questioned.

Into such an environment, how can God catch the attention of his people. They are not hearing the voices of the down trodden or seeing the greed of their own actions. They do not see how their focus on peace in prosperity in an unequal society is destroying the message of salvation and encouraging people to see God as irrelevant. The prophetic voices do exist that call out that the direction in which things are heading is only disaster but do those who call on God's name hear his voice and seek to bring shalom. No, they are too busy trying to ensure their own security and prosperity. They do not hear or see the signs that surround them.

Even the riots do not cause them to rethink their ways and to reconsider the direction in which the systems that they support are taking the world.

As I read Isaianic prophecy, I hear the message of God's salvation of his people, their return from exile to the promised land but at the same time, the prophet says that they are the people who have worshipped idols and turned from doing God's will (Isaiah 48:1-11).

Both in judgement and restoration, we need to question the way that we live asking whether we have heard and are hearing God's voice. God will act to catch our attention allowing the floodgates of frustration to open and possible violence to overflow if we fail to hear his voice and act to bring shalom and his kingdom into being now.

I am not advocating that God's people should use violence. However, I can see that God may permit or use people intent on violence to catch the attention of those who claim to be his people. His people need to be advocates for change, leading the struggle for equality and for sustainable living. Their lifestyle needs to demonstrate shalom in a world that is charging to self destruction.

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