Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How Narrow Is "Narrow"?

Texas takes twelve and a half hours to cross while Florida takes only two to three, yet I don't call Florida “narrow.” Usually within common speech, narrow is reserved to describe something that goes beyond the point of comfort.

I drive each day on a two-lane street with room for cars to park on each side, but if you were to put large ditches on the side of the road, remove the shoulders and extra parking space, and build a road in which only inches separated passing vehicles, it would definitely be considered “narrow.”

I'm a large man – 6'5” and 290 lbs, yet I fit through most doorways just fine. I've been in some caves though where I had to turn sideways and suck in my gut to scoot through a particularly tight passage. Now that's “narrow.”

The United States of America has become a melting-pot of belief systems. You can believe in whatever gods you want … or no gods at all. Yet if I express – according to my belief system – that something is wrong, I am considered “narrow” if it conflicts with someone's belief that it's okay. Isn't America great confusing?

So what exactly did Jesus (considered by “narrow” me as Lord of all, by others as a good man, and by still others not at all) mean when He (notice the capitalization in keeping with my belief system that He is the Son of God?) said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14)? How narrow is “narrow”?

Well, He (Jesus) said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6), therefore that removes Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and whoever else does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. That's pretty “narrow.”

Hmm, He also said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees? They were religious people. They were VERY religious people leaders. Unfortunately, they were hypocrites (as declared and defined by Jesus). They did not practice what they preached. If that's what Jesus was referring to, then there are a LOT of so-called Christian leaders who are surely going to be in big trouble someday because of Jesus' “narrow” way.

It's not just leaders though who may have trouble finding or staying on the path. Listen to what Jesus' hand-picked apostles were preaching. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). “The deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Wow! If there are people who actually believe this and practice it, then they must be REALLY “narrow.” Wait! I'm one of them!

“Jonathan, I can't believe you're so narrow-minded. Don't you understand that we're all just sinners?” I've had some church leaders who have tried to correct my thinking on this matter. Or is it my thinking? I believe all of these verses of Scripture, but I didn't write them. This is apostolic thinking. This is Jesus' thinking. I'm just following my REAL leaders.

Oh, and they don't spend any time at all trying to convince me that I'm just a sinner like everyone else. The apostles teach, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:4-10).

How narrow is “narrow”? I believe it is much more narrow than is commonly taught and practiced within the churches. The King of kings, in whom resides all authority, declared the truth of the matter, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Sounds to me like there will be a lot of surprised people on the Day of Judgment, although they need not be. The way – although “narrow” – has been clearly defined and set forth. “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). If we follow Jesus … if we live righteous and holy lives, even as He is righteous and holy … if we obey His every command … then we are guaranteed to end up where He is, in heaven.