Friday, August 27, 2010

The Value of Violence

David's Violent Faithfulness
While preaching several weeks back I commented that I have a bit of a rebellious streak in me, and then proceeded to follow that with the confession that there is also a violent streak as well. While this is not what some folks want to hear from their pastor about their pastor, it is nevertheless true and I believe good. Here's just a few reasons why:
1. God has a violent streak also. It's called wrath. It is a subcategory of His justice. Before there was sin there was no wrath. There was nothing to be wrathful against. But there was justice. When angels and men sinned, God's justice demanded His wrath.
2. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force, or so says Jesus the Lord (Mt 11:12).While some would interpret this text to mean that the kingdom of Christ is undergoing attack and that these attacks are from violent men (like Herod Antipas who had John arrested and beheaded), I, with some others, take the text to mean that without the reality in the heart of a holy and diligent violence, one does not enter this kingdom. I say this because of other Bible texts like Luke 16:16, The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. That is, everyone who has entered the kingdom, has come in violently, by the sovereign overthrow of their unbelief and self-worship. Or, hear the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian Christians; I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified (9:26f). Here, Paul writes of a means of perseverance in following Jesus. He says it requires a kind of ruthless violence in regard to the conquering of sin. Now, hear Jesus again; Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small (compressed) and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt 7:13f). Why so few? Because so few are spiritually ruthless.
To wage the good warfare (2 Cor 10) and fight the good fight (1 Ti 1 & 6; 2 Ti 4) requires an undivided allegiance, diligent focus, and relentless violence against all that would damn us. John the Baptist came preaching repentance for entry into the kingdom. He confronted people, even the king, with their sins. He knew unless they dealt violently with their wickedness by killing it (cf Ro 8) they would perish. The kingdom progresses forcefully (as under John's ministry), and the forceful press their way into it (like through that narrow gate Jesus mentioned). It is interesting that Jesus makes these particular comments on violence during his commendation of John. Jesus isn't down on violence. He's for it. Christianity is not for cruisers and bench-warmers; it's for warriors and players. The kingdom of King Jesus moves over the earth like an army over a city or like water over Niagara Falls. I want to be a part of that. By the way, this violent takeover is not rooted in a works righteousness where you can discipline yourself into salvation. The warriors weapons are the weapons of faith (Ep 6; 2 Cor 10), and fueled by faith. Perseverance is the perseverance in trusting Jesus. That's the fight! And our King, in His death, has purchased victory for all of His elect (Jn 6, 10, etc).
3. Jesus was not a pacifist. He was a peacemaker in some sense, but not a pacifist. In the Old Testament God did sometimes judge people for their violence. But it wasn't because of the violence itself but where the violence was aimed. Sometimes He commanded violence (Jos 6, for example). Jesus came to make peace between God and men. That spills over into peace between men and men (Like in Ga 3:28). We get a role in this peacemaking by gospel proclamation. But to label Jesus a pacifist is to misunderstand Him. Spiritually speaking, no one who has ever lived fought temptation with more violence than Jesus (See Lk 22:39-46, for example). And knowing the weakness of His followers, Jesus, in this same exchange, tells them to get up (they were sleeping) and pray (a weapon of faith) so that they would not fall into temptation. For the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (cf Mt 26:41). Now, watch the movie Fight Club and read Hebrews 12. The goal is to watch the movie for help in knowing what it takes to win in general (focus, determination, organization, decision making, ruthlessness, passion etc); and to read God's Word to learn how to win God's way in God's spiritual (not Fight Club worldly) kingdom.

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