Jesus once said that the Kingdom of God has suffered violence and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12)
I’ve often wondered what that phrase was talking about. Seriously. Does it fit your view of a meek and mild Jesus?
Tonight, however, it seemed to begin to make sense to me. Think about kingdoms. Let’s think middle ages.
So, you’ve got a king, right? Of course. Imagine is a big king. And, by big, I mean big and fat. He’s wearing a nasty cloak of some sort, sitting on a big chair at the end of a long dark hall. There are a few high windows, casting long afternoon rays through the room. The king is gnawing on the roasted leg of some unfortunate animal (how uncouth!) and scheming about his plans for world domination.
So, he gets this great idea about taking a plot of land along the border of his territory. There’s only one problem. That land belongs to the king-next-door. So, what does our uncouth king do? He calls in a posse of big men with pikes and bad breath (nobody cleaned their teeth in these times, did they?). He mutters something about needing some land for his new … hunting ground or serfdom or monastery (to get Rome off his back) or something. The illiterate pikemen stand there speechless. One of them scratches his belly. Another one leans on his pike and yawns. So, the king sighs, sucks the remaining marrow from the bone, before dramatically throwing it across the room and jumping to his feet.
“Ho you men! Those scoundrels from the kingdom-next-door stormed my hall last night and took by force my lovely daisy-of-a-daughter… of marriageable age! If you men can show your worth by slaughtering a village in revenge, I’ll choose one of you to receive my daughter in marriage… whenever she comes back…”
Really, the daughter is no daisy! She’s as gnarly- and as bearded- as the men before him. And she wasn’t spirited away by raiders. No, she’s sleeping off last night’s mead in a room adjoining the hall. But, the poor idiots don’t know any of that, and they get all worked up on adrenalin by growling and swearing and pushing each other. Then they head out to avenge their king and kingdom (and to hopefully win that daisy-of-a-daughter’s hand in marriage… poor fools).
So, off they go, believing themselves to be in the right. Having the “best” of intentions. Riding into the sunset for honor and glory! How heroic… or… utterly demonic.
The next morning, a village has been razed to the ground. Corpses of men and women and children lie scattered in the charred ruins of homes and storehouses and shops. At the village mill, a mother is frozen in shock, body trembling. Her baby is crushed between the millstones. The uncouth king’s troops patrol the ashen landscape and feast on any plunder they find.
A messenger returns to the hall of the uncouth king. “Mornin’ m’liege. I bring word from the border. Your territory is expanded. We razed a village in the night.”
Every time a kingdom takes ground, it does so violently. Territory is taken and lost by force. The enemy has violently ravaged our bodies, families, and communities. He takes territory through all manner of sin, addiction, sickness, and selfish ambition. He mobilizes deceived individuals to keep moving out in violence against the Kingdom of God.
If the Kingdom of God is to advance, we must take ground away from the enemy. He won’t give it to us if we ask nicely. We have to take it by force, which requires spiritual violence to be issued against the kingdom of darkness. This isn’t just about reclaiming what the devil has stolen from us (although that is a wonderful victory!), but about ravaging his whole kingdom! It’s about giving over rulership to God in every immediate area of our lives and families, and then going into the distant places of darkness and deception to defeat the darkness and declare the Kingdom of God!
Read up on John the Baptist. Jesus spoke so highly of that violent Kingdom-carrier.
We get to be violent in taking the Kingdom! That doesn’t mean we go and bomb abortion clinics or beat up the pimp down the street. That does mean, however, that we are proactive in taking authority over the spirits of deception and addiction and sickness in our vicinity. We go out and claim the Kingdom of God. We go and take the Kingdom by force. The love of Christ compels us.
Stay tuned. There’s more on this topic to come.