Violent Faith and the Kingdom of Heaven... Let's discuss!

Violent Faith and the Kingdom of Heaven... Let's discuss!

What does the Kingdom of Heaven look like?Why, it’s that place where peace and harmony reign, of course.Think of how smoothly things would have gone for Jesus if he had described it that way, all butterflies and rainbows. His anesthetized followers would have just nodded assent, as they nodded off.Maybe Jesus wouldn’t have gotten himself killed if he and the Kingdom had been a little more . . . neutral.

He didn’t sell the Kingdom as a stroll through lilies in the field, and he made it clear that it’s no bed of roses: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword” (Matt. 10:34).

King Herod reacted to the news of the birth of the Christ-child by ordering that the infants of Bethlehem be put to the sword... The Kingdom of the Christ doesn’t fit into the kingdoms of Herod types, yet it is Herod types (the materialistic, arrogant, and power-mad) who often hold sway in the world.There will always be conflict between Christ the King and those other kings; the Kingdom of Heaven will always suffer violence. And there will always be a stark choice between belonging to Christ’s Kingdom and those other kingdoms.

...Jesus pierces, and it is only with a pierced heart that the Kingdom of the Christ can be entered. Once that Kingdom is entered, the Kingdom of Herod is left behind. Just as the true Kingdom cannot be contained within Herod’s puny world, so also the true King, Jesus, cannot be contained within puny hearts.

My favorite character in the Narnia Chronicles is Eustace Scrubb, a greedy, selfish, nasty boy who is magically transformed into a dragon, an ugly exterior that reflects his interior ugliness.But it is in the pain of life as a dragon—estranged from humanity— that Eustace slowly learns how to be human. Though he remains a dragon in appearance, the heart of Eustace becomes generous, selfless, and empathetic.The problem for Eustace, as it is for all of us, is that our own efforts are not enough. (That’s why self-help books can offer only so much help.) Eustace does what he can. He peels away some of the dragon skin on his own and has a little success.But the transformation requires more: Eustace asks for the help of Aslan, the great lion-king (and Christ figure), and help is given: “The first tear he (Aslan) made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.”

What to make of this quotation from Flannery O’Connor: “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”

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