When we use physical force to coerce others to follow our will, that is violence. It extends from nuclear arms to an elbow or shove in a line. Violence seems to be a growing part of our everyday life and it is valuable to see what the Bible says about it.
What does the Bible teach about violence?
The Bible extends the idea of violence from the physical to include violence of the mind. See how God lumps hate, vengeance, and even holding a grudge together here in Leviticus 19:17–18: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." Jesus echoes this when He says that hating someone is equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:21–22).
There is much in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, about war and killing. One of the ten commandments, usually inadequately translated "Do not kill," more accurately prohibits murder (Exodus 20:13).
Throughout the Old Testament, God leads His people into war to claim what is rightfully theirs, to protect His people, or as an instrument of punishment for wrongdoing. It appears God does not prohibit "just war." In Romans 13:1–7, we are told to submit ourselves to the officials in the government—which can, among other things, wield the sword against those internally and externally who do not do good. Certainly, though, much violence has been done that would fail to meet God's requirements of societal justice.
Primarily, we are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), to let offenses go rather than retaliate (Matthew 5:38–40), and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48). Leave the physical use of force (the violence) to the authorities God has put in place such as the government and law enforcement; ultimately, leave it to God Himself (Romans 12:19). Pray about everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
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