“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.”
The writer of the book of Genesis reports the state of humankind before the deluge. Levels of corruption and violence had risen to such proportions that God decided, “Enough, I will put a stop to this!” What followed was ugly.
Listen to the writer’s words: “ . . . And the earth was filled with violence.”
Corrupt persons do not normally employ ethical means to cover their tracks.
They often fall back on violent means. When their security is threatened they do not merely issue threats. They act swiftly, and callously.
Violence is the best defensive and offensive weapon of the heartless, twisted and wicked. Corruption and violence are intimate bedfellows.
What forms of violence is the writer of Genesis alluding to and is concerned about? Biblical scholarship helps us to interpret the text.
Scholars reveal that this violence included “injury to persons and property; oppression and cruelty, by tyrannical decrees and unrighteous judgments; with rapes and robberies”.
Moreover, human beings had become “insolent and addicted to unjust action; they neither kept their oath, nor were hospitable to strangers”.
Does this commentary not read like a present-day observation? It is true that there is difference of time, setting and actors between the writer’s time and ours.
There is no doubt though that the writer’s painful experiences and expression of grief is comparable to ours. Violence with apparent impunity was the order of his day. Violent behaviour is a malignancy of our time.
Impunity to legal human systems does not mean divine approval of such acts. Men and women who have an assumed status of immunity to prosecution.
People who seemingly get away with gross abuse of human life and property believe that they are above the law.
They perceive themselves as only accountable to greater authorities who are of such prominence and verification that they have become a law unto themselves.
The perpetrators of violent activities are untouchable. Given this extraordinary status they become puffed up with arrogance.
They turn out to be “insolent and addicted to unjust action”. They grow to be a terror to all and sundry, even to themselves.
Talking about authorities, it is useful to mention that in the scriptures there are at least three authoritative institutions that God recognises — the family, the church, and the state. We deduce from biblical revelation that the three should ultimately serve the interests of the kingdom of God.
This kingdom is about “righteousness (right standing and right living before God), peace and joy” (Romans 14:17).
Although God has ordained the three, it does not mean that God endorses all their actions lock, stock and barrel.
Consequently anyone who acts violently and is not brought to account because they ride on the back of any of the three authorities will come face-to-face with the reality that God is unhappy with attitudes and actions that are unjust.
God is on record as having acted against violence and other acts of injustice at different times in the history of human kind. He has not changed.
Neither has He gone to sleep. His perceived silence does not mean complicity. At a certain point He will act.
When God acted in judgment against the arrogant, insolent, corrupt and violent people of Noah’s time it became very ugly.
The judgment was so harsh that God made a covenant with Himself never to destroy the world with water again.
When God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, it was equally terrifying.
I am not suggesting that there will be a repeat of the deluge or Sodom and Gomorrah.
None of us has the foggiest idea how God is bound to act when challenged, when people arrogantly walk onto His turf.
What I am suggesting is that when men and women cease to hear and obey God, when people are bent on acts of wickedness; when the strong have walked rough-shod over the powerless and trodden them underfoot; when the oppressed have no recourse; when those that are supposed to protect the powerless women and children and husbands and fathers mistreat them; when there is no respect of people and property; and when looting is legitimised, it is possible that somebody has crossed the line. At that point they have to contend with God.
God is bound to act on behalf of the weak and those without protection. And when God does act, the whole world will know.
Judgment of the divine upon frail human beings is nothing any of us wishes for.
It is something totally out of our conception and comprehension. When God acts in judgment for the integrity of His name and on behalf of the downtrodden, none of us will savour it.
It is too terrifying to imagine. Yet judgment is inevitable where human arrogance prevails. At best, one would wish that humility wins the day and repentance ensues.
Three words, “I am sorry,” can keep wrath away. It has potential to set free both the injurer and the injured party. However, given the rhetoric of the architects of violence, repentance is far-fetched.
Whether there shall be penitence or not, the prophet Hosea has a word of warning for both the architects and perpetrators of violence: “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7).
God’s law of reaping and sowing is irrevocable.
If the seed that we continue to scatter is wind, the storm shall be their fruit. And that is inevitable.
God will judge violence.
Maclean Dlodlo is a lead consultant at the Centre for Mission Relevance based in Bulawayo