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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Violent Christians (On Evangelization and Mission Part 4)

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

“the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,

and the violent are taking it by force.”

(Mt 11:12)

At the start of Jesus’ public ministry, he began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 4:17b). It was a call to a radical change in the way people lived their lives, in order to make it to the kingdom of God. And the requirement for making it was holiness and righteousness. Jesus emphasized to them that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:20).

Responding to Jesus’ call

Certainly such holiness would not just happen. People needed to work at it. Not in the sense of earning it, but in the sense of giving their all in their desire to be holy. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “Strive …. for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14). Strive for it, aim for it, desire it, put your all into it.

But many Christians are not doing this. Many are not actively striving for holiness and thus entry into the kingdom. Many are not single-minded, dogged, determined. Because of this, they endanger their own entry into the kingdom. They endanger their birthright to the kingdom which Jesus came to give to them.

In fact, so intense should be our desire to enter the kingdom that the Bible paints a scenario of people forcing their way in! The Bible says that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force” (Mt 11:12), and that “everyone who enters does so with violence” (Lk 16:16b). The kingdom of God belongs to those who would take it by force and violence!

These two verses are highly enigmatic. What do they mean?

Scriptural violence

First of all, the Bible is not condoning violence in the way we normally understand violence, which is the inflicting of injury or damage by rough or abusive treatment. Thus God says, “Put away violence and oppression, and do what is right and just!” (Ez 45:9b). But there are other definitions of being “violent.” A look at the dictionary will reveal the following meanings:

  • proceeding from or marked by great physical force;

  • overwhelmingly forcible;

  • exhibiting intense emotional or mental excitement;

  • passionate;

  • fierce;

  • characterized by intensity of any kind;

  • extreme.

Thus, what the Bible is speaking of is a kind of determination, intensity, zeal, doggedness, passion, which should characterize our pursuit of holiness and 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. It is a measure of the extent to which a man who is desperate would go to, being determined to achieve his purpose no matter what and allowing nothing to stand in the way.

No one simply drifts into the kingdom. No one makes it to heaven in first-class comfort.

What must we do in order to make it to the kingdom?

Becoming violent

We need to become “violent” Christians! How?

First, we need to do violence to ourselves, that is, we need to strive to be holy. To grow in holiness necessitates doing violence to ourselves, that is, we need to strip ourselves of anything which will hinder us from being holy. Jesus gave us this radical teaching:

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna” (Mk 9:43-47).

Now that is not meant to be taken literally. Otherwise, there should be a lot of maimed Christians in the world today. What Jesus does say to us is the necessity of a radical response to his call to live a godly life. Nothing in life, even those that are so important to us and so intimately a part of us, should become stumbling blocks to our making it to God’s kingdom.

Paul understood the call very well, and he was uncompromising in his direction, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly” (Col 3:5a)

Violence to ourselves in order to become holy is a matter of life and death for us. It is our choice. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13).

Passion for God and His kingdom

Second, we need to be violent in our relationship with God. Considering that prayer is our primary means of entering into an intimate personal relationship with God, to be violent means to persevere in prayer. Prayer is the way by which God can teach us and form us in His holy ways. We have to be determined and single-minded in protecting our daily quiet time with the Lord.

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 (Lk 18:1-5). After telling this parable to his listeners, Jesus draws out his point, that God too will listen to and act favorably and quickly on the petitions of those who call out to Him day and night (Lk 18:6-7).

Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God, and the key to our growing in holiness.

Thirdly, we need to do violence to Satan’s dominion. Since God’s call is a corporate one, we want not only to make it to heaven ourselves, but also to bring as many people as we can with us. This therefore means that we must evangelize aggressively. We are at war! We are to storm Satan’s strongholds in order to liberate men and women enslaved by him.

The Christian’s call

This then is our life as a Christian. We are to grow in personal holiness, being intimately connected with God, so that we may serve him as co-workers in bringing in a harvest of souls.

We are not called to a relaxed, complacent, comfortable Christianity. We are called to a radical one, where “violence” is the key to entering the kingdom of God.

* * *

(Note: This article is taken from the book Focused on Christ, chapter 12. As being centered on Christ is our first and most important core value, you are encouraged to read this book. It has discussion questions and starters that can be used for household meetings.)

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