Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Matthew 11:12 has often been used to toss bricks at "institutional Christianity." "The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and the violent take it by force" (ESV). What kind of violence is going on? Many of our progressive voices will take "institutional Christianity" to be the violent, oppressive group, domineering and forcing others to toe the line, ushering in some sort of theocracy that will crush out the freedom of thought in our culture.
What is Jesus actually talking about here? In some ways, the progressive voices are right. When we view the Church as some instrument of earthly power we are barking up the wrong tree. Yet Jesus' words in verses 16-17 put the discussion into a different light altogether. Here, Jesus says that his critics in society have utterly misunderstood him by thinking his mission should line up with their ideologies. The mission of Jesus, however, is not one of earthly power at all. It has nothing to do with leveraging governments to open borders, to institute social welfare programs, or even to cease from warfare.
Jesus' concern is showing mercy on those in need. It is with reconciling the world to God. It is a change of kingdoms he is after, moving people from their sinful lives to being partakers of his kingdom, where we find peace with God. All this happens according to God's word, not our opinion. Our response, then, is to look to Jesus in repentant faith. As in verse 17, we learn to play his tune and sing his song, not our own. This is the work of Jesus' kingdom.
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