John A. Braun

With cell phone cameras available in almost every situation, we get pictures of unguarded moments in the lives of many people. Some of those moments are funny, like America’s Funniest Home Videos. Others are embarrassing, but maybe that’s the same thing. Still others reveal the dark side.

More than a few of the dark videos make their way to television news departments. We see road rage, fights, protests turned violent, and a lot more. Sporting events turn into brawls, and not just in professional sports where a lot of money complicates the conflict. Too often it includes Little League games, which are supposed to be fun and learning experiences.

Then add guns, and disagreements aren’t just hostile, aggressive confrontations—they suddenly destroy life. Often we hear that the absence of guns will stop the violence, but I think that the violence stretches beyond guns. As a society, even if we would outlaw all guns, the violence will continue. It might be a little like Prohibition in a previous era of our American history. Banning alcohol solved very little. We sometimes only grasp for solutions so it seems like we are doing something to bring safety.

On the issue of gun control, there can be some spirited debate and disagreement. No matter what one’s opinion, all want brutal outbursts to stop. Yet road rage; violent protests; domestic disturbances; brawls; and bloody, unexpected shootings persist. So where does all this come from?

When children sit with their devices and improve their score by increasing the body count, are we encouraging or discouraging peace and safety? When movies become box office successes because, at least to some extent, they are bloody and violent, what’s the lesson? My grandmother sent her sons off to war and never let us play with guns—even pretend guns—but we played with them anyway. My rifle sticks of the past have become realistic toys with a small bright orange mark somewhere to indicate it is a toy. Have we blurred the boundary between pretend and real? Where does that lead?

Bursts of violence and confrontation are everywhere—in our competitive business practices, in our entertainment choices, even in the way we respond to disagreements in marriage. Some control the bursts of anger before they turn to violence. They exercise self-discipline in contentious exchanges. Others channel their competitive impulses to outlets that do not bring pain and bloodshed. I like to think that my grandmother’s aversion to guns was a warning for my budding personality.

I also heard a better voice. His voice warns not just about violence, but also about the source of violence and all evil. Jesus says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). His thought stretches back to the beginning when God observed that “every inclination of the thought of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). But his words seem to have little value today when we deny the evil that sits in a corner of all our hearts, something we think is a little thing. It’s not. It remains powerfully violent, easily provoked.

His diagnosis is painfully noted, not embarrassingly and angrily dismissed!

Then I hear his voice again. He does not leave me only with the violence and evil within identified. He creates something new within me. His love forgives. It makes me want to be like him. The new forces within motivate me to work toward “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22,23).

When we fail to understand the source of the problem, we can only treat the symptoms.



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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

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