Does Matthew tell us to be violent as we proclaim the Gospel?

Floyd Rogers – Texas Gospel Volunteer, Christian writer

Matthew 11:12 NASB:   12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force.  

The 11th Chapter of Matthew uses a phrase that may be misleading to our modern ear. I think it’s something that can lead to a gross misunderstanding caused by the limitation of human language and translation. The 12th verse tells us the kingdom of Heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force. Is this verse advocating physical violence? All scripture must be understood within context, and a reader of any English Bible needs to consider translation of language and the differences in which people spoke in Jesus’ time from modern ways of saying things. So, let’s start with what is being said around this verse.

Matthew had just told his apostles that their words would not be received well by some.  They would be called up for judgement and even relatives would rise up against those who proclaimed Jesus’ words.  He said he did not bring peace, but a sword. I believe this is a metaphor to describe the resistance some would give. Now we see Jesus speaking of John who was in prison for preaching the Gospel without compromise. John did not use a passive or timid approach to preach. He went so far as to speak against Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, because Herod had taken his brother’s wife as his own. Though John and the other apostles did not use physical aggression, they forcefully moved forward in proclaiming word of Jesus. I believe this is Jesus’ point. If he advocated physical violence then why later does Matthew tell us Jesus rebuked Peter for using a sword telling him, “…those who take up the sword will perish by the sword”?

Context tells us Jesus did not advocate violence. It also shows us Matthew uses metaphors of physical violence to drive home his point.  With this in mind it seems Matthew 11:12 doesn’t tell us to be violent, but stresses the urgency to preach the Gospel, and the need for a vigorous pursuit of the Kingdom of Heaven.

What are your thoughts?

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