Saturday, July 20, 2013

Narrow Gate and Hard Road (Matthew 7:13-14)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, New Revised Standard Version).

We can take two orientations in life. We can devote ourselves to the six conventional Olympian gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. They open for us a very wide gate with plenty of room for our SUV on both sides. Or we can devote ourselves to Jesus.

Olympianity, the world’s oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion, the religion oriented toward these six adored yet false gods, gives form to all societies and cultures. These reward us for devoting ourselves to the gods and punish us if we don’t. That makes our daily choice to be Olympians a very easy road to travel.

Because the Olympian gods hold open for us such a wide and inviting gate, and because our Olympian society and culture offer us such an easy way to live, just going along to get along, we all develop a very Olympian personality without even knowing it. By the time we are old enough to know what being Olympian even is, we have developed deep Olympian habits of personality to which we, and everyone we know, are strongly attached.

Of course, we can devote ourselves to Jesus: the one unconventional god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. He’s always holding open a very small gate for us, always inviting us in, but it’s hard to find. Given the extensity of our Olympian society and culture, and the intensity of our own Olympian personalities, hardly anyone even knows there is a narrow gate to look for. It is invisible on all mass media of communication and virtually unknown even among us Christians who should know better.

Let’s suppose we do look for it and, more surprisingly still, find and enter it. What then? Jesus tells us our life will be hard. The six false gods our Olympian personalities adore promise us security, happiness, importance, justification, and meaning. Our Christian personalities get to embrace building character through suffering. That hardly seems encouraging.

Yes, Jesus is the source, norm, and goal of life. But witnessing to him requires that we remain free of the Olympian gods, know and speak the truth, and consistently love—nurture and protect—all our friends and even enemies who want so much for us to stay conventional like them.

Discerning and affirming the freedom, truth, love, and vitality of Jesus will always be the hardest acts we do. There is nothing more difficult amidst an intensely Olympian society than learning and sharing the truth of Jesus. There is nothing more difficult that remaining free of the enticing, threatening, and always delirious Olympian gods and there billions of minions. There is nothing harder than actually loving other people the way Jesus does. There is nothing more difficult than being truly creative, healing, and restoring of life.

Our churches, and we as church, brightly witness to Jesus when we welcome all people to join us on Sundays as we listen for the words which Jesus will be speaking to us afresh through the Bible. We brightly witness to Jesus when we praise and thank him in response and then go do his words. And when Jesus does speak to us, he strengthens our Christian personality and the Christian dynamics of our church. When that happens, we actually start living as the salt and light he so much wants us to be and our world so much needs.

But we deceive ourselves and others when we imagine the truth Jesus speaks to be anything less than the most demanding words we will ever hear. Affirming his words means embracing the insecurity, misery, unimportance, guilt, and meaninglessness the gods threaten us with, our Olympian friends and enemies enforce, and our own Olympian personality fears most.

It’s the difference between shopping at the mall and backpacking through the Alps. Jesus invites everyone to join him through the Alps (what could be more fun?) but most everyone prefers the mall. Sadly, even our churches are increasingly like malls, comfortable, entertaining, undemanding, casual—in a word, Olympian—and much less busy about properly equipping people for the very strenuous journey that lies ahead. “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Let us pray that Jesus may grant us the strength we need today, and each day, to start doing the exercises—physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, spiritual, and relational—that make a meaningful witness to him possible.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.