Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
In other words Jesus is saying that to come into the Kingdom of Heaven requires deliberate, purposeful and determined action. Hopefully we understand that if the Kingdom of Heaven in this world or in our personal lives is to be advanced it is going to come with conflict. It is important for us remember that there are forces of evil which oppose God’s word and His work. Any bent towards passivity, isolation or avoidance of this battle leaves us vulnerable to the violence working against God and His church in this world.
That passivity keeps many of us from being honest and vulnerable with other men about our habitual patterns of sin, our marriages that are struggling, our anger, our envy, or whatever else is eating away at our hearts. We become violent by confessing our sins to one another so that healing might be realized.
Our isolating separates us from the community that can call us out of our tombs of isolation and the grave clothes that stink with self-hatred and shame. Other brothers call us out of that dark, dank cave into life. This takes a level of violence some of us have yet to grasp. This is where we need the violence to say, “No more, I choose to come out of the darkness of my shame and into the light of Jesus and His healing body.
In my struggle to live this out in my own life I needed eyes to see the Kingdom of God forcefully advancing in my life. It was, but I had no awareness that it was happening in spite of me. I needed eyes to see the initiation of the Father (speaking of God) moving towards me in my life. Back in those days I was pretty good, too good in fact, at feeling sorry for myself. I was well aware of my own need for the good of God’s initiation in my life because within me there was (and still is at times) this poverty spirit that says, “You’ll fail if you try.” And during that time, my habitual struggle with sin (pornography and masturbation) just reinforced that internal negative belief within me.
In Matthew 3:13-17 (read) John baptizes Jesus. In verse 17 the Father says, “This is my son…” and I love my son. Do you see the initiative of the Father wrapped up in that blessing? The father names him as son. Do you know why we love? We love because God first loved us and you can’t do anything to deserve it. Jesus hasn’t even performed any of His miracles at this point and yet his father says, “Son, I love you and I am well pleased with you.”
We see Jesus dunked in the river and as he emerges out of it, His Father’s heart forcefully advances towards him and engages with him. When the father’s initiative is not present, you either strive for approval, always looking to get noticed, or you live out of the “big self.” This is having an inflated sense of who you are. You live out of grandiosity.
I would have done anything to get my dad to say that he loved me and was well pleased with me! To receive his blessing, his affirming of me as a man, to know that I was good enough, would have set something within me that I felt was missing. I believe it would’ve given to me a passion, a strength, a willingness to risk living life to the full. Not caring what others thought of my appearance, the sound of my voice, or even the weakness of my prayers. But the character of my earthly father was one of violence that destroyed my initiative to advance into manhood. Yet as I’ve learned how to walk with God, I have found His character is one that blesses and affirms, one that loves and nurtures.
Until next time, may God empower you to stand in new ways against the violence you’ve experienced and the violence you will encounter.