A question has been rolling around in my head that’s generated some confusion in my thinking. In view of the terrible things that happened in our nation a couple of summers ago, (you remember, the summer of love), where cities were burned, property was destroyed, causing huge financial losses to individuals, states, and the federal government (that’s us), and people were even killed or badly injured, I began to reexamine an old problematic text that has to do with VIOLENCE.
The text in question is one I’ve heard preached on numerous times, but I’ve always come away with the feeling that the true meaning of the scripture was somehow missed. Of course, I’m speaking of Matthew 11:12.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
Just a cursory glance would imply that the kingdom of heaven suffers, (an old English word for “lets” or “allows”), violence and violent ones take it by force.
Preachers always seem to relish this idea and preach it with great fervency. Their preaching might have been good, but I could never quite agree with their front-loaded interpretation, although at face value it seems to be clear in what it states.
The first thing I did was look up every text that contained the word “violence” or “violent” to see if it was ever cast in a favorable light. To my surprise, every scripture carried a very negative view except one. You guessed it, Matthew 11:12.
Now I’m really scratching my head. From Genesis 6:11, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence,” to Revelation 18:21 where Babylon, “with great violence will be thrown down, and found no more at all.”
Possibly, one could view the latter as a good thing.
As I continued my studies, I found another text that seemed to be in complete opposition to the Matt.11 reading. It’s found in Luke 12:32 and it says, “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
An apparent contradiction loomed large.
Since I believe that Scripture never contradicts itself; but harmonizes if interpreted properly, I diligently sought answers to the Matthew text.
First. Matt. 11:12 is a knotty text and is referred to by many Bible scholars as one of the more difficult words of Jesus. After reading several different commentaries and still coming away dissatisfied, I came across a source that really helped me with what I believe is a correct rendering of the text.
As this post has already gone way too long, we’ll pick that up tomorrow. (Part 2, if you will)
Studying Scripture is such a wonder and a joy.
Hope to see you tomorrow, friends!