During a recent talk show the host asked the question, ‘Why do we have such a violent nation?’ In the light of what is happening in our country at the moment it is an important question to ask. In an article that appeared in the Citizen newspaper recently the author wrote about dealing with the cause of a problem and not the symptom. Although this is the right approach in order to find out the reason for the escalating violence he did not get to the root of the matter because he concluded that the predominant reason for crime is to be found mainly in poverty.
It appears that people who want to find an answer as to why people commit acts of violence generally only look at the symptom and try to deal with it and in doing so they do not look at the cause. Poverty, a lack of good education, deprivation, ill health, being an orphan or any other condition is not the cause for people being violent and committing crimes. The main reason for them behaving violently is revealed in the pages of Scripture, which many people do not want to hear because of their prejudice, rejection and indifference towards the Word of God. Whether people agree with God’s Word or not God has made known to us the reason why people conduct themselves in this corrupt way. Violent actions, conduct, behaviour and attitudes are as a result of a sinful heart. The heart of man’s problem is man’s heart. Jesus said very clearly that out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony and slander, (Matthew 15:19). The implication of the words of Jesus is that all kinds of evil come from the heart, which is captivated by sin.
The heart is the cause of all forms of wickedness because as Jeremiah the Prophet said, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure’ (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart is not the organ that pumps blood throughout the body but it is a person’s nature, which determines the condition of their character. Everyone enters this world at birth with a heart that is polluted by sin (Psalm 51:5) and continues to live pursuing after the hearts desire, which is to gratify the sinful nature (Psalm 58:3). Every person will not act in the same violent way because there are different levels of it being manifested but since the heart is plagued with sin everyone has the potential to behave in a corrupt way. In his second letter to Timothy Paul described the reality of how a sinful heart of a person will conduct itself in society. ‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days, (the period of time between the first and second comings of Jesus). People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …’(2 Timothy 3:1-4). His words paint a picture of the reality of where violence has its breeding ground.
In order to get rid of violence the heart must be changed not by undergoing a human transplant but by a spiritual awakening. Since everyone is born in sin no one has the ability to change their heart because as Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians all are dead in their sin. After describing the condition of the human heart Jeremiah asked the question, ‘Who can understand it’ and then gave the answer, ‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind …’ (Jeremiah 17:9-10). In his answer Jeremiah indicates that God alone is able to change the human heart. The way that He is able to do this is by removing sin and replacing it with His nature of holiness. He has therefore made a provision for the sinful heart to be changed by sending His sinless Son Jesus Christ to become a sacrificial offering so that through His willing death upon the cross at Calvary and His victorious resurrection from the dead He is able to destroy the power of sin that captivates the heart and causes it to do evil. A change of heart only can happen when every sinner acknowledges that they are corrupt and then in faith turns to God confessing their sins and asking Him for His forgiveness. When a sinner comes in true humility and genuine sorrow God will remove the vileness of sin from the heart and place His Holy Spirit in it which will result in Him beginning a work of making the heart to become more like Jesus.
After a sinner has been changed by the grace of God the heart needs to be protected by the truth of the Word of God because it will have the tendency to want to follow after sin. In his letter to the Galatians Paul indicated to them that every believer is involved in a struggle between the new transformed heart and the old nature that is still present, (Galatians 5:16-18). Since this is possible to happen every child of God must make every effort to guard their heart from being influenced to indulge in habitual sinful actions and behaviour.