We must flee from practices that escalate violence—the Spirit of Violence. We must curtail practices of “tit-for-tat violence” provided more than 3,000 years ago by the Law of Moses—the Spirit of Force. We must embrace the ideals of the Law of Moses and the Prophets, as taught by Jesus—the Spirit of Peace.
It is important to compare the Spirit of Violence with the Spirit of Force and with the Spirit of Peace.
The Spirit of Violence appears early in the Bible.
In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we meet Lamech. He was a descendant of Cain (who had murdered his own brother, Abel).
Lamech boasted to his wives:
“I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech [is avenged] seventy-seven times.”
The Spirit of Violence is to hurt other people more than they hurt us.
If they wound us or those we care about, we wound them and those they care about “seven times” more, and preferably “seventy-seven times” more.
If they injure us or those we care about, we injure them and those they care about “seven times” more, and preferably “seventy-seven times” more.
If they kill us or those we care about, we kill them and those they care about “seven times” more, and preferably “seventy-seven times” more.
The Spirit of Violence is to retaliate by escalating the violence in the hope and expectation that fear will keep others from wounding, injuring and killing us, and those we care about.
The Spirit of Violence eventually fails us and destroys those we care about.
Because we reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7-8).
Because those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7).
Because those who live by the sword will die by the sword. (Matthew 26:52).
These bad results are not always evident immediately. (1 Timothy 5:24-25).
Sometimes it takes time for bad results to grow enough to become visible. (Matthew 13:24-26).
Indeed, sometimes it takes a long, long time! (Matthew 13:27-30).
The Spirit of Force is to impose equivalent harm on those who harm us and on those we care about.
In this Spirit, the Law of Moses (and many other legal codes) provide for what is known as the lex talionis—commonly expressed as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
For example, the Law of Moses provides:
“Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:17).
“Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.” (Leviticus 24:19-20).
Inflicting equivalent harm on people who wound, injure and kill others is a definite improvement compared to inflicting harm “seven times” or “seventy-seven” times the harm the wrongdoer inflicted on others.
To show this, the Law of Moses didn’t need to go any further than the story of Noah’s ark.
In Noah’s time, the earth became full of violence that kept escalating.
People were retaliating by inflicting “seven times” or “seventy-seven times” the harm that had been inflicted on themselves. (Genesis 6:11-13).
“So God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is full of violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” (Genesis 6:13).
Today, people dismiss the possibility of the destruction of all people (except for Noah and his family) as a mere myth. They take comfort from their belief that our LORD God is too loving to destroy all of the people and all of the earth.
Unfortunately, during the 75 years of “peace” since the last Total War, humans have already built enough weapons, including biological weapons, cyber weapons, and nuclear weapons, to retaliate “seven times” and even “seventy-seven times”.
It won’t take God to destroy all of the people and all of the earth.
All it will take to destroy us is the violence in our own hearts.
Perhaps unleashed by intentional evil. Perhaps unleashed by madness.
All it will take to destroy us is the foolishness in our own hearts.
Perhaps unleashed by a leader’s human error or miscalculation.
Perhaps unleashed by flaws in our technologies. A faulty reading by an early warning system. A software glitch. A mistake by an artificial intelligence.
Therefore, we need to flee from practices that escalate violence—the Spirit of Violence.
We need to curtail practices of “tit-for-tat violence” provided more than 3,000 years ago by the Law of Moses—the Spirit of Force.
Instead, we need to fulfill the ideals of the Law of Moses.
We need to fulfill the ideals of the Law of Moses and of the Prophets, as taught by Jesus. (Matthew 5:17).
We need to embrace the Spirit of Peace.
We need to hear these words of Jesus and put them into practice:
“You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:38-39).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Forgive each other not just “seven times”, but “seventy-seven times”. (Matthew 18:22).
By putting these wise words of Jesus into practice, we will build our lives, our communities of wisdom, our families, our businesses, our nations, and our civilizations on the rock of Wisdom.
And so, when “rain” comes, “streams” rise, and “winds” blow and beat against our lives, our communities of wisdom, our families, our businesses, our nations, and our civilizations, we will not fall.
Because we built our lives, and the lives of those we care about, on the solid rock of Wisdom—the Spirit of Peace.
To read more about the Wisdom of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, please read my blogs “Building Houses on Rock: Mission Impossible?”, “Building Houses on Rock: Mercy and Forgiveness”, “Building Houses on Rock: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, and “Building Houses on Sand: Specks and Planks”.