FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
VIOLENCE IN THE KINGDOM
December 14, 2017
Today’s gospel: Matthew 11:11-15
Jesus says something enigmatic: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” (v.12). We can look at two meanings, both valid and real, both looking at the spiritual war raging between the forces of God and the forces of the evil one.
On the one hand, the Kingdom of heaven and the people of God are being violently assaulted from all sides by the enemy. A tsunami of evil has descended upon the world. The assaults against faith, family and life grow ever more intense. The enemy wants to bring down God’s people. In the Western world religious freedom is being suppressed. In other parts of the world, Christians are subject to physical violence and death.
On the other hand, God’s people themselves need to resort to violence in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence.” (Lk 16:16b). Our desire to enter the Kingdom should be so intense that we are pictured as those who force our way in. The Kingdom of God belongs to those who would take it by force and violence!
Now of course Jesus never condones violence in any form. We need to understand “violence” as having different meanings: exhibiting intense emotional or mental excitement, passionate, fierce, extreme, overwhelmingly forcible, characterized by intensity of any kind.
Thus Jesus is speaking of a kind of determination, intensity, zeal, doggedness, passion, which should characterize our pursuit of the Kingdom. It is a measure of the extent of the effort we put into it, an extent comparable to warriors storming a city during a siege.
We need to become violent Christians. How?
First, we need to do violence to ourselves, in our pursuit of holiness. Jesus told us to cut off our hand or foot or eye if these cause us to sin (see Mk 9:43-47). This is not to be taken literally, otherwise there would be a lot of maimed Christians in the world today. What is meant is the necessity of a radical response to God’s call to live a godly life. Paul says, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly.” (Col 3:5a).
Second, we need to be violent in our relationship with God. Consider prayer. To be violent means to persevere in prayer. Our prayer should be done with the persistence and intensity of the widow seeking her rights before the corrupt judge, who finally decided to settle in her favor for fear that she would do him violence (see Lk 18:1-5). We have to be determined and single-minded in pursuing our relationship with God.
Third, we need to do violence to Satan’s dominion. We are at war! We are to storm Satan’s strongholds in order to help liberate people enslaved by him. We are to do a massive work of evangelization and mission.
What does this all mean? We are called to be holy warriors.
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