But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.
–Matthew 7:14 (CEV)
This verse, I believe, may be the most subversive and radical verse in the entire Bible. It is subversive because–on its face–it appears to be speaking of something different than its context within The Sermon on the Mount would allow. It is radical because it predicts how hard it is to make Love our number 1 priority–and at the same time provides the justification needed to reject Jesus’ command to Love everyone.
Whether openly or not, this little verse is relied upon by nearly every Religious Denomination to prove that their judgment, their open exclusivity, is exactly as God had planned it.
We believe you are going to Hell because you don’t go to our church. You don’t follow our rules. And OUR way is the “narrow and hard” way. . . . but every Church claims to the “hard and narrow” path to salvation, right?
I just have one question: In claiming your denomination holds the keys and stands keeping the gates to the narrow path to life, are you remembering this one most profound and most important command of Jesus: Love everyone.
The church tradition I embrace makes up such a small sliver of the global historical population of the world. Can it really be true that they alone are going to Heaven? Let’s see if you check the boxes for entry to Heaven:
Do you believe? [check]
Have you confessed your belief? [check]
Have you been baptized by immersion baptism? [check]
Do you take the Lord’s Supper every sunday? [well, uh, EVERY Sunday . . . or what happens?]
Do you only use acapella music during with service? [Are my ears sinning, should I cut them off and throw them to the fire? How about my heart for enjoying? My hands for clapping?]
Do you only let men teach church? [what exactly does this mean?]
Do you have Elders and Deacons who fit the description Paul gave Timothy? [didn’t a lot of those churches not have Elders and Deacons because they hadn’t yet been raised up?]
And many, many more . . . But you’d better get them all right — because narrow is the path and only a few find it!!
Remember this: The entire context of the Sermon on the Mount is: Love More!
It starts by reminding us of God’s Love, gets very pointed regarding that “Love commandment” (yes, it does apply to your enemies) and then compares some of the basic historical rules against the greater responsibility imposed by the command to Love–everyone. Without exception.
First, let me point out that Jesus’ mention of “Life” was not always a reference to future life. He also promised a richness to our lives where we stand when we follow him. Second, that “narrow path” was not a promise that it will be hard to figure out and follow all of the rules. Not. at. all.
Jesus was saying this: “Loving everyone is hard. You have the capacity to love but the qualities of a flawed and selfish human being. Yet, walk that road. Practice love every single day. It is a difficult journey, and at times, you may find yourself completely alone. But through Love is Life. And I will be there.”
You believe in studying scripture contextually? Good! There is your context. And there is a perfect summation of our lives and the realistic nature of God’s desire for us.
Let me end with this:
Humility is a difficult emotion to “practice” when you feel as if you have “dotted your ‘i’s and crossed your ‘t’s.” When there are written rules to being a Christian, just “check ’em off” and you are good. You go to Church every time the doors are open. You read your Bible. You tithe. You pray. You follow all the rules of your church. You are marching along that straight and narrow–right?
But do you Love?
Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter . . .
–Matthew 7:21 (NLT)
Real humility is not something to be practiced. It is a gut-wrenching emotion felt the moment you realize that you can never Love like Jesus. We are deeply flawed and I have hurts that run so deep sometimes I think they may crack me in half. I try to love EVERYONE . . . except the lady in the grocery store who cut me off with her cart, or my neighbor who let her dog attack my dog, or my family members who have let me down in the past.
If I can let go of these hurts and learn to Love, then I will experience true Life. That is a promise made to all of us. It is just so hard to do, isn’t it?