Minutes With Messiah Logo

The Broad Way

by Tim O'Hearn

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt 7:13-14)

This is a familiar passage to many. It has been used to express a variety of opinions; some valid, some less so. Some use it, when others call their doctrine narrow-minded, to point out that narrow may be good. Others, sometimes with some justification, use it to accuse those who attend megachurches of being too liberal in doctrine (or lack of it) in order to gain more followers. Perhaps, though, there is another thought about this passage that might not be very popular with some Christians.

Conservative Christians like to emphasize the narrow (strait in the King James Version) way. They claim to be on that way. There is even a cliché that misquotes the passage based on a similarity in sounds: being on the straight and narrow. It is variously a point of pride or judgement.

The other part of the passage, though, says that many people will never find the narrow way. This may be because they are not looking. It may be because they would rather enjoy the pleasures of sin. It may even be because nobody on the narrow way chooses to show them the error of their way. Whatever the reason, Jesus says the majority will not find that road.

One lesson from that could be that those who have found it have an obligation to try to show it to others. That is a valuable lesson, but not the only one.

Christians have to realize that not everyone will become, or even wants to become, a follower of the Christ. In another context, Dorothy Sayers points out

t is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. (Creed or Chaos)

Her point was that few people even know what the followers of Christ truly believe. But the last part of her statement is also true; not everyone would follow with only a little encouragement. There are many people who will refuse to follow, even with extreme encouragement. Some would not even follow at the point of a sword or the wrong end of the barrel of a gun.

What does that mean to us? Foremost, it means that trying to legislate morality is an exercise in futility. Whether it is about drugs, marriage, or a liquor license near a school or church building, some people cannot be made to believe as Christians believe. Nor should we attempt to ram it down their throats. Even a majority of Christians object to the tactics of the Westover Baptist Church when they lead protests at military funerals, even if the deceased had nothing to do with a gay lifestyle. Yet those same people use the same tactics at legislatures or clinics without qualm. In both cases, Christians are driving away more people than they are teaching.

This is not to say that we have to tolerate sin. It is not to say that we cannot identify sin when we see it. Rather we must acknowledge that “the poor you have with you always,” and the sinner, too. We are not going to change people by protests and legislation. We will change them by loving and teaching, in that order. When we become judgemental we need to heed another warning from Jesus. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matt 7:6) Too many people are turning to rend Christians simply because they were unduly provoked.