Proverbs 3 Verse 31,
31 : Do not envy or copy a violent man or choose any of his ways
32: for the Lord detests a perverse man, but takes the upright into his confidence (New International Version of Old Testament)
Story from a Roman soldier
My name is Lucius. I am a Roman soldier. I came to Britain many years ago, two hundred years after the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It was my job to provision the battalion. I had to make sure that there would be enough to eat for every man, woman and child in our care, for indeed many of our men had wives and children with them. We would deal with the local people. We would barter for goods or pay for them with our own money if they would accept it.
We kept animals to feed ourselves. We grew winter crops which we saved to feed our stock. We introduced many new crops to Britannia. Our goats and sheep would graze the pastures. We wanted to live peaceably with the local populations if possible. It was too exhausting to be at war. We wanted to gain territory rather by doing business with the people than by subduing them with weapons. We wanted them to feel they could welcome us into their towns and cities. We could show them many ways of building roads and houses that were new to them. This would make it more likely that they would want to become like us as they could see the advantages of our ways.
I remember on one occasion a young man from a village near our fort came to see me. He said he wanted to join the battalion. He was tired of life on the land and wanted to weald a sword instead of a ploughshare. I asked him what he thought he would be doing with his sword.
“I will be killing people, of course,” said he.
“And why would you want to do that?” I enquired, surprised at his reply.
“That is what all Roman soldiers do,” said he. “That is why Rome has come and taken our land, our towns and our villages. That is why you can eat whenever you want to eat. It is why you can wear fine clothes and live in grand fortresses.”
“Young man,” said I, “It is not by violence that we conquer this land; it is by power. We are more powerful than you people. There are many of us and we are well organised and well disciplined. It is true that our swords are sharp and our lances long and lethal, but the truth is we rarely use them. We do not wish to waste human blood. Every man is of value. Every person, Roman or Briton is precious to us. Do not think that if you join our army you will be killing people every day. Indeed it is to be hoped that you would never need to kill anyone. It is the threat of violence that controls people, rather than violence itself. An army needs strong discipline so that unnecessary killing is strictly avoided.
An undisciplined man who kills another without a thought for the value of life will find that others may take revenge upon him. He himself will have a short life, and the life that he has will be constantly under threat. Fear will rule his life. In choosing a way of violence he is choosing a path of fear.
- Why do you think the young man envied the Roman soldiers?
- How did he think they were able to control the local population?
- How did Lucius explain the truth?
- What is the danger of being a violent person?
- Does the story remind you of anything in your life, or in the lives of people you know about?
- What do you think verse 32 means? In another translation of the Bible (New English) it says ‘For one who is not straight is detestable to the Lord, but upright men are in God’s confidence.’ There are lots of issues to consider here too!