Social Issues, Theology

What Jesus might have meant by “the way to life is narrow”

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Is Jesus Christ the only way to heaven?

I struggle a lot with this question- I know many Christians do. It’s a particularly nasty struggle for me, because if the answer is yes, that means everyone in my family is going, or has gone, to the dark place. I wrestle with God quite a bit over it.

While I’m not one to say “God told me” (because how would I know for sure?), here is what I think he is communicating, after years of reading the historical and cultural context behind verses like “The path of destruction is wide, but the way of life is narrow, and few will find it”:

We know that Jesus was many things in his lifetime. Some call him a rabbi. A teacher. A political rebel. A rabble-rouser. Jews and Christians debate over his divinity, but no one can deny that the man had chutzpah.

He didn’t go causing ruckuses for the heck of it, though. He wasn’t someone who stirred up trouble for nothing. He did so when there was a cause.

Life is full of WWJD? moments, but the biggest one we are witnessing today is the Christian response to the Trump administration. As we know, it was largely Christians who put him in the highest seat of power, and it is mainly Christians who defend him to this day — despite tearing immigrant children from their parents and being kept in cages, harassing rape victims (not just his own), calling neo Nazis “very fine people,” referring to countries comprised of dark-skinned citizens as “shitholes”…

And that’s an abbreviated list.

I have sat in Bible studies listening to garbage about how “Make America Great Again” is in fact a biblical message. I listened to a sermon about Potiphar’s wife — the woman who lied about being raped — the weekend of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In both scenarios, I looked around the room, wondering who was going to speak up.

In both scenarios, I was the only one to do so.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t say this to exalt myself. If you know me, then you know I hate drawing unnecessary attention to myself, hate being put on the spot, hate confrontation. And yet, when push comes to shove, some things I can’t keep quiet about.

I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to do this alone. How devastating it is to hear people you thought were friends brush off your activism with, “There goes Beth, the token church liberal.”

Look, I get it- standing up for unpopular causes is hard. Going against the grain is hard. Doing the right thing, knowing it could cost you your friends, your job, or your comfort, is pretty damn hard.

But then, it’s supposed to be. Picking up your cross is supposed to be hard!

I wonder maybe, just maybe, if that’s what Jesus meant by a “narrow way”: giving lip service to following Jesus is easy, but when opportunities arrive, many Christians will slink away, not wanting to cause a scene.

It’s one thing to miss out on dating opportunities because you refuse to have premarital sex, or to get teased because your faith compels you to be selective about your entertainment. I think Christians in America expect that sort of difficulty. But standing up to systemic bigotry (especially in churches), saying “Black Lives Matter,” and pointing out hypocrisies in the way we treat the poor is a different kind of sacrifice.

But Jesus did just that when he flipped over tables inside the Temple that were used for money-changing. He pissed off all the wrong people — and got killed for it.

If you are a Christian reading this, I implore you to ask yourself if your actions are pissing off the right people: the MAGA-chanting, victim-blaming, power-hungry types of people.

Maybe the real test of faith is not about having “correct” theology, per se, but what you decide to do when the devil offers you an entire Kingdom… if you sacrifice godly values in exchange.

“Christians should be slowest of all to pursue political dominance and power over everyone else, because we claim we serve a King whose greatest act was lowering himself to be a servant with the mission of dying to rescue his people.” -My friend Laura

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4 thoughts on “What Jesus might have meant by “the way to life is narrow””

  1. “In both scenarios, I looked around the room, wondering who was going to speak up.
    In both scenarios, I was the only one to do so.”

    I can very much relate to that reality – there have been many times I’ve felt like Elijah, when Ahab called him “the trouble maker of Israel”. (In fact, one time I did lose my job because I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to my the bullying, and abuse of power, happening in my ‘christian’ workplace.) So I really find encouragement from your perspective on these words of Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

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