Violence, the Bible, and the Sikh Temple

A man reacts Sunday outside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wis. Photo © Associated Press.

A reflection by pastor and author Mel Lawrenz.

A chill went up my spine when I got home from church on Sunday and heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just a few miles from where I live. I was stunned because the shooting was taking place just as I was preaching at Elmbrook Church on Psalm 46:9: “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” I had said: imagine if today the suicide bomber’s detonation device shorted out, all tanks and artillery stopped working, all AK-47′s in the world (75 million of them!) were suddenly jammed. All M-16′s and M-4′s turned to dust. In the light of future judgment when God brings all violence to an end, how can we not commit ourselves to being peacemakers in whatever ways we can?

What does the Bible has to say about violence? Much, of course.

But today I find myself going back to a foundational truth in Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

This is basic, essential, core. We instinctually know violent murder is wrong, but besides our instincts, there is a real reason: if we violate the image of God we are violating God. Human identity comes from being made in the image of God. Human dignity is an unalterable truth because we are made in the image of God. Reverence for God compels us to respect our fellow human beings. Reverence and respect. Those two principles keep us on track in life.

And respect for people because they are made in the image of God not only makes murder wrong, but hatred of every kind. That’s why Jesus said “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21).

As prayers are said around the world in response to the shooting, may God compel us to have reverence for God and respect for those made in his image.

Mel Lawrenz is Minister at Large for Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He writes the Everything New devotional for BibleGateway. These days Mel is helping people have a deeper spiritual influence in our world. Check out The Influence Project.

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