Matthew 11:12. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. – Jesus
Matthew 11:12 is really hard to translate and understand. Has Jesus’ kingdom suffered violence or has it acted violently? Both translations are legitimate. And both are actually true.
The grace of God is a violent thing. It came to destroy kingdoms. Satan’s kingdom. Your kingdom. My kingdom. The incarnation was an act of war. God declared war on sin and evil. God invaded our world in order to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and move us into the kingdom of light. This is what every prophet and the Law spoke of all throughout your Old Testament. This was their Apocalyptic Advent – waiting for the invasion.
This too is our Apocalyptic Advent – waiting for the culmination of this war. We live in a space where God’s grace continues to violently move against the kingdom of darkness at every turn. We still live in the “present evil age.” This is why the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous suffer. This is why it seems like no matter how much we obey God’s blessing is still elusive. This is why life just seems so hard and disappointing at times. Satan holds a lot of territory, so we live surrounded. Ours is spiritual guerilla warfare.
Yes, Jesus came as a weak little baby. He suffered on a cross. He was tortured and rejected. From a human point of view, he lost. He suffered the violence. His kingdom was just too passive. But things aren’t always what they seem.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
Jesus was actually the one acting violently. He was attacking the forces of Satan. He was putting death to death. He was destroying all of sin’s power. The birth of Jesus was a violent invasion. The death of Jesus was a violent charge against the stronghold of evil. And the resurrection of Jesus was a violent fatal blow to all of God’s enemies.
Where does that leave us? The violent take it by force. Again, admittedly, this is hard to interpret.
But what it might mean is that in this spiritual war that we live in, in this spiritual kingdom, it is only those of us who are willing to allow the violence of grace to overthrow the mini kingdoms of our lives that will actually receive the true and powerful Kingdom of Christ. This is the paradox of “to live is Christ.” We live lives of outward peace, gentleness, kindness, and mercy. And in so doing we are taking the Kingdom by violent force. For every act of mercy, love and grace that we display is another twist of the fatal knife in Satan’s back. This is our Advent – the violence of grace.
Do you see yourself as being in a spiritual war? How has grace been violent in your own life? How has it destroyed your selfish kingdom and replaced it with Christ’s?
The paradox – a baby and the Great I Am