Break the Pattern of Violence! | Tomorrow's World

Break the Pattern of Violence!

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Violence involving young people is nothing new. In fact, the Bible's first recorded murder occurred between Adam and Eve's sons, when Cain slew Abel (Genesis 4:8). That fatal blow began a legacy of aggression for the human family that has continued ever since.

Four young men are scheduled to go on trial this April, charged with the murder of 24-year-old Sean Taylor, a star National Football League safety who played for the Washington Redskins. Prosecutors say that the four assailants, ages 17 to 20, broke into Taylor's house in a Miami, Florida suburb on November 26, 2007, thinking no one was home. When the burglars found Taylor in his bedroom, one fired the shot that killed him.

Taylor was widely considered one of his league's top players, so his death was certainly a tragedy for his team. But a far greater tragedy is that he left behind an 18-month-old daughter, who was in the bedroom when her father was shot.

This is a sad story, but the reason it made front-page news is that the victim was a famous athlete. Many other murders took place that same day, all around the world. Young people are the victims of, and the perpetrators of, many violent crimes that can occur at any moment. We live in a violent world, as Sean Taylor's murder reminds us.

A History of Violence

Violence involving young people is nothing new. In fact, the Bible's first recorded murder occurred between Adam and Eve's sons, when Cain slew Abel (Genesis 4:8). That fatal blow began a legacy of aggression for the human family that has continued ever since. For too many, violence is a way of life—whether in the case of a power-seeking despot or a gun-toting neighborhood thug.

It is impossible to know how many billions throughout history have suffered because of violence. It is safe to say that wherever there have been people living together, there has been violence. Human beings often resort to violence as a "shortcut" to handle a problem that could better be dealt with in another way. It can seem much easier just to punch someone—or to pull out a gun—than to sit down and try to work out differences.

One biblical writer asked, "What causes fights and quarrels among you?" That is a very good question! Here is his answer: "Aren't they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?" (James 4:1, God's Word translation). The writer then describes acts of violence, such as murder, as the result of not controlling selfish desires.

The story of Sean Taylor's death serves as a sad example of how this happens. The Miami Herald reported that the thieves chose to rob Taylor's house because of his wealth. Photos of thick wads of cash were displayed on the MySpace profile of one alleged perpetrator, with the caption "dis how i sleep after a good day" next to a photo of the young man lying on a bed covered in money. Clearly, "selfish desires" were at the heart of this crime that ended in murder.

Our Violence-Loving Society

One unique aspect of our modern society is its proliferation of violent entertainment. Of course, other societies have reveled in violent amusements, as did the ancient Romans in their Coliseum. However, such entertainment is now widely available, in many more forms, than ever before.

Sociologists have estimated that by the time the average U.S. child starts elementary school, he or she will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television. A quick scan through any list of recently released "action movies" reflects society's lust for violent entertainment through disturbing sci-fi films, graphic slasher flicks and gruesomely realistic thrillers that feature gratuitous violence. This is in addition to many young people's steady musical diet of anger-filled hip-hop and rap music, featuring performers who are living—and sometimes dying—a violent life.

Young people—and old—can engage in violence through video games, which are becoming more realistic every year. Some home gaming systems now use controllers that let players "act out" a game's physical action. In games with a violent storyline, one can actually perform the motions of stabbing or choking an opponent. If this sounds bad, consider also the emotional connection a player feels when "playing" such a character's role.

The debate on whether violence in the media affects people has raged for years. But there is evidence that it does have a negative affect. Researcher L. Rowell Huesmann and his colleagues followed 329 subjects over 15 years, and found that those who were exposed to violent television shows as children were much more likely later to be convicted of a crime. Girls who watched more than an average amount of violence tended to throw things at their husbands. Boys who grew up watching violent television shows were more likely to be violent with their wives. The researchers concluded: "Every violent TV show increases a little bit the likelihood of a child growing up to behave more aggressively" (Developmental Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 2, p. 218).

Sad Consequences

Attorney Sawyer Smith, who is representing two of the young men accused in Taylor's murder, described to Washington Post reporter Matt Sedensky his clients' feelings about their upcoming trial: "They're terrified. These are young boys who are absolutely terrified about the position in which they find themselves." John Evans, the lawyer for another of the accused, said of his client, "He's in a position, dressed in the orange jumpsuit over there in the county jail, thinking about his life and thinking about his future. You can only imagine the things going through his mind now."

The results of this one violent act are sadness, loss and regret. For the family, friends and teammates of Sean Taylor, a tremendous feeling of sadness at the loss of someone so young who had a bright future ahead of him. For those charged with his murder, regret at the situation they now face. Because of this violent act, many lives will never be the same. But if the accused had been "thinking about his life and thinking about his future" before the act, Sean Taylor might still be alive.

That is the way of violence! Before anyone can think, the deed is done—and it cannot be undone. At the time it may seem like a good choice, maybe the only choice. But almost always, there is another way!

Break the Pattern!

As long as people fail to control their selfish desires, violence will continue. Anyone can break this pattern, but first there must be a change on the inside. Jesus Christ said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19). So, how can we change our hearts? One answer is given in James 4:8: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." The closer you grow to God, the more your heart will change.

The good news is that our world will not always be filled with violence. The time will come, in God's Kingdom, when swords will be beaten into plowshares, and there will be no more war (Isaiah 2:4). For now, however, if you find your life filled with violence, you can ask God to deliver you from that way of life. That choice is up to you!


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