“When the world says, “Oh, you’re narrow,” you say, “Maybe I am narrow, but the way is narrow, and the path to heaven isn’t as broad as a 16-lane highway. You know why I am too narrow? I’m walking with my God.” AW Tozer
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that probably isn’t the most popular of ideas: Christian friend, we need to get back to being narrow.
< sounds of heads imploding, hands going up in protest, fingers starting to point…>
Hold on a minute. Isn’t that what is getting us in all kinds of trouble lately with the world and the people we are supposed to be reaching? Our narrow-mindedness? Our total inability to include others and welcome them no matter what?
First and foremost, lets see what Jesus said about this narrow way:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” Matthew 7:13
The gospels, by definition are narrow. Jesus presented a choice and just like His disciples, we are free to follow or continue on our own way. Following Him though, comes with some requirements. We have to deny ourselves and carry our cross daily (Luke 9:23). People who followed Jesus in His day lost a lot of things, but what they gained was immeasurable. The point made over and over in the gospels is that of a narrower path than what the world presents to us. We will be mocked because He was mocked. We will be rejected because He was rejected. Not once did Jesus appease anyone or bend the requirements for them. The narrow gate is smaller, but it is always open.
So what to do when the narrow way Jesus told us to take becomes (in the eyes of the world) the narrow-minded way? When standing on truth gets you thrown under the proverbial bus and labeled as a narrow-minded jerk?
Here’s an example fresh in my mind of how tricky this is becoming.
Months ago, popular blogger and Christian writer Jen Hatmaker came out in support of same-sex marriage as holy and acceptable. Predictable pandemonium ensued, many agreed and supported her and many disagreed with her. This is not surprising in the least. She came out with a blog post a few days ago in which she railed against the “Christian Machine” response to her new position and how utterly devastating it was, and linked it to Jesus’ pain and the mourning we feel on Good Friday. The response to this blog post was overwhelming sympathy and many stories from hurt people reiterating their painful experiences with this ‘machine’.
First, I don’t doubt for one second the hurt and pain we in this so-called ‘machine’ can cause one another. Harsh words spoken in an absence of love are no way to represent the true Jesus to people, saved or not. Without love, our message is doomed before it even gets off the ground.
That being said… the message of LOVE also comes with a partner and it’s name is TRUTH. We’ve lost the conviction that God’s Word must come before the shifting tides of culture or the witty words of human authors. I’m not bashing the author, I think her heart is so very much FOR helping hurting and lost people. I just think we can’t dispose of doctrine along the way. Twisting and contorting scripture to make something appear to be harmless, so that all these hurting and lost people feel included isn’t our job. Our job is to LOVE the people and show them that narrow gate. We don’t need to apologize that it’s narrow, or try and explain the narrowness away… we are to show them to it and declare how fantastic of a gate it is. Demonstrate that it’s not actually confining, mean-spirited, or exclusive in the ways they think it is.
While everyone is focused on the mean-spirited ‘machine’, I have to ask a genuine question: do we even recognize anymore that Biblical discernment is necessary and that sometimes disagreement needs to be voiced? Not in a crazy hateful manner, but in a “speak the truth in love” kind of way. That’s mostly what I saw in response to Jen’s postings. Were some hurtful and wrong? Yes. But the vast majority reacted exactly how you’d expect them to react – with respectful and heartfelt disagreement. Did she lose sponsorships and business deals? Yes. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “betrayal” or a “punishment” as she did. I’m sure that’s how it felt, but in the same way she stood up and declared a belief, so did those who disagreed with her doctrine.
Here’s the thing – it’s not all about same-sex marriage and it’s not all about Jen Hatmaker. It’s about sin and our desperate need for a Savior to deliver us from the grasp of it. He did just that. We are spinning our wheels when we focus on all the ways people have let us down, how the ‘machine’ has disappointed us, etc. We who disagree aren’t all hateful, spiteful, backwards or closed-minded. A lot of us feel passionate about God’s Word and the freedom it gives when we allow ourselves to be set free by it.
The Bible tells us not to get wrapped up in foolish and ignorant disputes with people or engage in useless idle talk (1 Timothy 1:6, 6:5). Focusing too much on how awful those bad apples are only keeps us from seeing all the well-intentioned believers who may be standing nearby ready to walk us up to that narrow gate. Having pity-parties feels good for a time, but it’s a distraction that keeps us on the wrong path. I read plenty of loving responses to her statements that were also truthful. That’s how it’s done.
The flip-side of this is that we are not to be argumentative, but ready to teach and with all humility correct those who are in opposition to God’s truth, not so that we may be proven right, but so that they may escape the captivity of darkness (2 Timothy 2:25).
THAT’S how you demonstrate the ‘narrow-gate’ without being ‘narrow-minded’ as they say. The internet has created a kind of black and white world in which the end game is all about winning our side. Someone makes a declaration. People react. More people react to those reactions, etc. We need to step back and ask ourselves “what’s my purpose here?” Proving my point? Putting that person in their place? Useless.
Speaking truth in love in order to demonstrate to others the freedom the narrow gate offers? I’ll argue that point all day long.