The Violent Bear It Away – Gospel in Life

The Violent Bear It Away

Tim Keller |  January 10, 1993

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  • Salvation
Matthew 11:7-15
RS 39-06


In Matthew 11, Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, and he uses the word “violence.” That’s what the Greek word means. There’s no way around it.

The context is Jesus telling us about John the Baptist, who realized the kingdom of heaven is real. Then Jesus says the kingdom of heaven comes with violence. This bothers us. Isn’t this Jesus? Isn’t this the one who said, “turn the other cheek?” Yes. That’s the reason why Jesus uses this term. Jesus is a communicator. He knows by saying this you’re going to be startled. You’re going to say, “What does that mean?”

Let’s cooperate with him. Let’s ask, what is this holy violence? Let’s look at 1) what it’s not, 2) what it is, and 3) why we need it.

Matthew 11:7–19

The ‘kingdom of heaven’ isn’t just a thought, but a powerful force that can change the world, just like John the Baptist showed us. To truly understand it, you need to be really passionate about your faith and ready to question things as they are. This idea also talks about ‘spiritual violence’, which means a fiery chase for God’s truth, urging us to actively and determinedly search for the kingdom of heaven.

1. A person who welcomes God’s kingdom is always on the hunt for the truth

There are two kinds of people who don’t really chase after spiritual truth: the busy ones, who are so wrapped up in their own stuff they forget to look for truth, and the cynics, who have given up on finding happiness and fulfilment, usually because they’ve been let down before. But Christians, they keep their spiritual strength, always hunting for truth and clinging onto hope. This spiritual fierceness, a clear sign of someone genuinely seeking truth, brings them nearer to the kingdom of heaven than those who just passively accept spiritual truths.

2. To be a Christian you need to be someone who’s ready to swim against the current

Choosing to follow God’s kingdom can often lead to mockery and disagreement, much like what John the Baptist faced because of his groundbreaking message. Accepting this truth might mean losing some respect or credibility at work, but it shows the grit needed to reach the kingdom of heaven. Even if people think you’re strange, standing up to their judgment is a crucial part of this spiritual adventure.

3. This spiritual violence is characterized by a fierce yet humble spirit

Extreme humility is key to becoming a Christian, going against the usual thought that being spiritually intense means being arrogant. Salvation isn’t a trophy to be won, but a gift to be gratefully accepted, realizing that none of us are good enough to deserve it. Christians are advised to passionately follow their faith, including praying fervently and ceaselessly searching for God’s truth.



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