Defending Violence - Sort Of

It's a necessary part of Kingdom life.

Thus you see, my dearest friends, that we live in foreign lands, while even our life is not our own, and we ought not to live to ourselves, and it requires great violence to seek by toil and to maintain by enthusiasm what a corrupted nature has not kept.

  - Columbanus, Sermon X, Irish, 7th century[1]

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

  - Matthew 11.12

“The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”

  - Luke 16.16

Part of our problem in the contemporary Church is that we’re just not violent enough.

Oh, I don’t mean physically violent toward others, or hurtful to the persons or property of our neighbors. I mean violent toward sin, and toward our own latent tendencies and desires, which cause us to stray from the path of righteousness and prefer the comforts of the world to the peace and joy of the Lord.

And violent to compel our bodies to yield to Jesus in all the time of our lives, so that He can shape, send, and use us as agents of Kingdom grace to a grace-starved world.

We don’t much like that kind of talk because it sounds like work, struggle, hardship, and change. Can’t the Christian life just be comfortable, easy, and fun?

Well, no.

The Bible is unflinching in calling us to violence toward everything that keeps us from growing in the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14.17, 18). We are to hate sin (Ps. 97.10), to go to war against spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6.10-20), and to discipline our bodies to bring them into submission to the Lord in all our words and deeds (1 Cor. 1.27).

We are called to mortify our sinful desires, to take up our crosses, to die to our selves, put off the old person, run our race, resist the devil, fight the good fight, and so forth. It does, indeed, require great violence, enthusiastically maintained, to gain and keep what our corrupt and sinful natures would prefer we left for someone else.

Perhaps that's why so few Christians seem to be making real Kingdom progress in their lives. They just aren’t violent enough.

Violence against sin will flow from hatred of it – if we ever get to where we actually hate sin, as we are commanded to (Ps. 97.10). Violence against the devil will come once we realize just how much he hates us and wishes us ill. And we will discipline our bodies as we should once our soul – heart, mind, and conscience – is truly enraptured with the vision of Jesus exalted in glory.

When our hearts are turned ruthlessly toward sin and our minds are made up to root it out, our values and priorities will change, and then mortifying the flesh and buffeting the sinful old person will become a daily disciplines that we will with great enthusiasm embrace.

And as we do – if we do – we will begin to see the light of righteousness, the blanket of peace, and the deep wells of eternal joy springing up within us like never before. We’ll be dead to sin, but we’ll be more alive to Jesus than we ever knew was possible. We’ll be making progress in the Kingdom of our Lord, gaining ever deeper entrance to the mysteries of faith and the riches of glory that are ours in Christ Jesus.

So come on. Put a little more violence in your life. A greater realization of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom awaits you if you will.

For Reflection
1. What would it mean for you to “put a little more violence in your life”?

2. Why do we have to “take the Kingdom by force” and “exert violence” to advance it?

Psalm 149.5-9 (Toulon: I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art)
Sing to the Lord, exult with great delight!
Sing on your beds with joy to God by night!
Sing praise and take His Word into your hand;
publish His grace and wrath in every land!

Lord, help me to take seriously the call to crucify my sinful self, so that I will…

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T. M. Moore

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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Walker, p. 103.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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