Several years ago I made an observation which led to a question: “Why don’t Christians stand out in culture?”
My observation was that so many Christians, particularly in the US, blend in with everyone else. With that observation in mind Matthew 7:13-14 when Jesus states that “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few,” strikes a chord with me.
Now many have come to use this verse as a way to explain that those who enter the narrow way simply believe the right things. Those who go by the wide way just can’t accept simple biblical truths.
The fact of the matter is the reality of the narrow vs. the wide path is one of challenge and difficulty. This has nothing to do with what we believe but how we live our lives. Jesus’ statement is one of surrender. Surrendering your life to the Jesus way is hard, it takes commitment, discipline focus. To live by the way of the world is easy. So again my questions comes back into focus.
Professional Athletes vs. Everybody Else
The clearest analogy I can think of is one of sports. When you hear the regiment that any athlete who competes at the highest level of their sport goes through its amazing. The level of commitment, discipline, focus, training, time and more is astonishing. The bottom line not everyone can do it.
What’s more is that when you watch these athletes perform, it becomes very clear that they did not just get out of bed one day and start competing. Said another way, if I were to stand next to any athlete who competes at the top of their level, you would have no problem picking the professional vs the amateur.
This level of life discipline, commitment, focus, time and more is what I believe Jesus is saying when he says the way is narrow.
One of the things I appreciate about those who practice Islam is that those most commited are a disciplined group of people. From their fasting, to set hourly prayer, etc is admirable.
Those who practice Islam stand out, they are recognizeable. I feel the same way about the Amish, practicers of Judaism, and the list can go on. Those groups stand out, they are recognizeable for patterns, disciplines, way of life, clothing, and more. Sadly the same can’t be said of 21st century Christianity and specifically Western Christianity.
So what needs to change? Firstly I think we need to recognize the problem. Which, in the US, is namely that Christianity has been hijacked by American culture; Christians are more interested in the American Dream than manifesting the Kingdom of God on a daily basis (the title of a future post).
To become a Kingdom people takes commitment, dedication, focus and most importantly practice. Just like atheletes who compete at the top of their fields, the same dedication should be the drive of Christians whose goal is to become new kinds of human beings. Humans who are striving to transform themselves into image bearers. Because it is only when we as a people accurately represent (in our words, actions, lives, principles and more) our God that we give the world the correct picture of Him.
God’s plan from the beginning was that the world would know who He is and what He cares about from His people. This was the mission given to the Jews that Christians are born into.
If not just being recipients of new creation but also agents of it was the driving cause of those commited to Jesus, we would look very different.
If that was our orientation we would stand out as the most loving, peaceful, serving, compassionate, graceful, kind, self sacrificial, merciful, forgiving, gentle, blessing, patient, non-slanderace, and justful people on the planet.
The Prayer of St Francis sums it up I believe.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.