Fruits of the Spirit Series: Peace

17 06 2016

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  –Galatians 5: 22-23

Welcome to the next installment of the Fruits of the Spirit series!  I am so thankful and grateful that you have come to this site!  If you’ve not been following this series thus far, please go back to the beginning and catch up!

I have a confession, first of all, I had another peace entry written, but then the shooting in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando changed all of these things.  If given guidance, I may publish that later, but I do want to re-write this entry in light of this event.

The Peace Alliance offers a few statistics on violence, some of which are listed below:

  • Violence causes more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year. Violence is one of the leading causes of death in all parts of the world for persons ages 15 to 44
  • A World Heath Organization report estimates the cost of interpersonal violence in the U.S. at more than $300 billion per year.
  • 35 percent of women worldwide — more than one in three — said they had experienced violence in their lifetime, whether physical, sexual, or both. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex.
  • On average, the cost of violence related only to paying for police, justice, corrections and the productivity effect of violent crime, homicide and robbery is $3,257 for each U.S. taxpayer or $460 billion for the United States economy.
  • The 20th century was one of the most violent periods in human history. An estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians
  • In 2005, 5,686 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered–an average of 16 each day.

This is not an exhaustive list.  I’ve just included some of the facts that really stirred my heart when I thought critically about this.  When I think about violence, I think wars, I think mass casualties, I think of governments and armies.  But, my thinking is skewed.  If you look at the statistics, I think it’s safe to say that the large majority of violent acts occur between individuals and not in wartime.

When I meditate upon these statistics and that conclusion, I realize something very profound.  Violence is not a problem of how, it’s a problem of why.  Gun control is a great attempt at reducing violence, but it only takes care of the HOW, and not the WHY.  Reduction in ammunition, gun buy-back problems…they all take care of the HOW we wage violence upon each other, and not curing the root of the problem.

What is the Root of Violence?

When I started to think on this topic, I decided to look back on the first violent act ever committed.  So I looked to the Bible.  I looked at the account of Cain and Abel.  I’m not going to cite the whole story or post it here, but the basic premise of the story goes that Abel was favored.  Cain got jealous because of his favor, and so he took a rock and stoned Abel to death.  The violent act there was the result of human emotion given free reign over Cain’s heart.  And what happened as a result?  He is punished by exile.

Is the rock to blame?

No.  The rock was just sitting there, minding its own business, you know…being all rock-like.  Suddenly, somebody picked it up, and did something with it.

Someone had to do something.

Therefore, the root of violence is not in the guns, it is not in the weapons, it is a disease of the heart.  And not only is it a disease of the heart, but it is the failure of that person to be intentional in allowing the emotions to not control oneself.

How do we solve the problem of the heart? Trust.

It’s not that easy.  Like most things dealing with spiritual things, it is a discipline, a choice that you have to make, in order to grow and to be more peaceful.  It is something that you have to understand what is asked of you and what is expected of you, as a believer, and as a follower of God.

When anger seeks to destroy our peace because we have been wronged against by a brother or sister, scripture is obvious, we have to trust that God will get his vengeance for us.  When we take matters into our own hands, our first impulse is violence, but scripture is clear:

  • Hebrews 10:30-For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

  • Romans 12:19-Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

  • Isaiah 57:21-There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Scripture is clear, that it is not up to us to get even, especially through violence.  It is not my job and it is not your job to get even.  Mother Tereasa best explains this through her quote in the following image:

motherteresa

When we start dealing with issues of violence, we must realize that the idea of violence and peace is an issue that is much bigger than us.  It’s something that we all contribute a small part of, but as a whole, the problem of violence lies with a need for a world-wide change in the heart.

How do we see a change in the heart?

Well, there are several things, the first is major.  We’ve got to be intentional about keeping close to God.  That’s it.  This and this alone causes the rest of the steps to fall into place.  We must be intentional about prayer, worship, time with God, study of the scriptures.

The second is this:  Live out what you believe.  As you study in scripture, you will notice some commands, some things that God expects of us, and we must live them out, in both large ways and small.  Scripture has some really prevalent truths about living with people and pursuing peace.  But it’s not enough to just know what scripture tells us to do.  We have to live it out.

Third, make sure the things that you advocate for, also pursues peace.  If you advocate for a war to be waged, consider if that war is going to actively promote peace.  Sad to say, but war for the greater good of getting to peace is still war, and it is still something that we should avoid advocating.

But….that does not fix it on a wide-scale!

You’re correct.  Until all of human population sees the validity of controlling human emotions and trusting in a larger-scale move of the great deity….peace will not happen.  Because it is an issue we have to fix of the hearts of men and women, there’s nothing out there that we can do to force others to turn their methods to peaceful ways.  However, we can do our part in our own little worlds to bring about peace in the way we relate to each other, and by investing time in organizations and efforts to bring about change.

Some statistics from the Peace Alliance again:

  • Nonviolent resistance campaigns tend to succeed because nonviolent methods have a greater potential for eliciting mass participation — on average, they elicit about 11 times more participants than the average armed uprising — and because this is the source of major power shifts within the opponent regime. Mass participation that draws on diverse segments of society tends to empower and co-opt reformers while cutting off hard-liners from sources of support. When such participation is nonviolent, it increases the chances of pulling the regime’s support from the leadership, allowing security forces, economic elites and civilian bureaucrats to shift their loyalties with less fear of bloody retribution.
  • In West Philadephia High School, within two years of implementing a Restorative Discipline program, incidents of assault and disorderly conduct dropped more than 65%.
  • After the Longmont Community Justice Partnership (in Longmont Colorado) implemented its Community Restorative Justice Program, recidivism rates among youth dropped to less than 10% in its first three years.
  • Washington State Life Skills Training programs in schools (Social and Emotional Learning) show that for a $30 per student cost, benefits are around $1290 — a $1260 value.  At the national level, benefits are estimated to be $810 per student.
  • A study on the cost-effectiveness of early intervention to prevent serious crime in California, showed that training for parents whose children exhibited aggressive behavior was estimated to have prevented 157 serious crimes (such as homicide, rape, arson and robbery) for every $1 million spent. In fact, training in parenting skills was estimated to be about three times as cost-effective as the so-called ‘‘three-strikes’’ law in California.

There are many more statistics like this, but the big conclusion that I can come to from these statistics is that preventative efforts work.  Get involved, advocate.  Don’t just stand by.  Go ahead and participate in efforts that promote peace!

And maybe, just maybe, we will see a little change in our world.

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