We witnessed yet two more police killings of African American men, and another ‘hashtag’ of names. These shootings are hurtful reminders of how violent our world has become, and how much we need our faith to help us to understand and get through these difficult times. Jesus gives us some insight. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence and the violent take it by force.
(11:12). In this eulogy to John the Baptist, Jesus applauds John the Baptist’s ministry and purpose and couched in his words, he says to the living that the Kingdom of God has been suffering violence—attack and abuse.
But those who are “violent” take it back by force. The word ‘violent’ in this context is not referring to someone who is an abuser, a killer, or a bully. No, the violent are those who are bold, believing, and simply want their stuff back. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God in different ways: as a Spirit, a power, and a place. Although Jesus categorizes the Kingdom of God in this manner, the Kingdom of God can be holistically defined as God’s work of salvation through humanity.
As we look around our world, the Kingdom of God suffers violence. There is a war against peace, love, and harmonious living. The primary weapons being used to destroy these elements of the Kingdom of God are hate and fear. It may seem that the Kingdom of God is losing, and has already lost a great deal. But we must keep encouraged, because those who are members and believers in the Kingdom of God have the authority to take whatever the enemy has stolen. We, too, must get violent to take everything back, including: our children, dignity, humanity, and all the things that seek to take away the power of God’s Kingdom.
We are the violent, the believers who take will take it back by force. The force that we use is not the form of a firearm, taser, or any other type of worldly weapon. The violent take it back with activism, prayer, fasting, worship, and love. These are extremely violent if we use them strategically, unselfishly, and with the power of faith and grace. We have to take it with force, because the enemy is not going to turn it back over willingly. We have to believe that we can get it back.
In Maya Angelou’s ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ she contrast two birds, one in a cage, and the other flying freely. The caged bird suffered violence—his wings are clipped and feet tied. The free bird lives his life and fulfills his dreams. The caged bird sings because that is all it can do, and the singing is hurtful and piercing. This sad singing is throughout our world and communities. There is good news, though.
The cage can be re-opened; wings can grow back; and feet can be released. This is the work of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The Kingdom of God suffers violence, but the violent take it by force.