~written by Randy Bushey, October 18, 2016
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13,14).
Here’s a thought experiment.
Would you say Jesus of Nazareth as portrayed in the Gospel records was narrow-minded, or broad-minded?
You might first ask for a definition of the 2 terms.
Broad-minded would be a suitable label for one displaying tolerant, or liberal views towards other people; willingly accepting the opinions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of others, particularly those that are very different, or even unusual in contrast to their own.
Conversely, narrow-minded would describe someone unwilling to accept thinking or actions different from their own, even being judgemental towards those exhibiting such thinking and behaviour.
In our day, narrow-minded is almost always a pejorative term, used as a label for undesirable and reprehensible – even destructive – behaviour.
But is that correct? Is narrow-mindedness always wrong?
Now back to our thought experiment regarding Jesus. Which label would best suit Him?
Some hold Christ up as a champion of tolerance towards others different from Himself. After all, He was heavily criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners; for associating with prostitutes. He was castigated by Simon for allowing a sinful woman to anoint His feet (Luke 7:39).
Jesus supplied a vivid contrast to others of the Jewish rabbinic tradition for His willingness to engage women, to touch lepers, and to breach other traditionalist societal taboos. For that He was an outsider, disparaged by the conservatives.
However, His acceptance of people did not mean He tolerated their sin.
Or their worldview.
He was very clear that people sin, and that sin is worthy of God’s eternal judgement.
We often hear that Jesus loved the sinner and hated the sin; but He was also clear that it’s sinners that God will punish in hell.
Although true, that’s narrow-minded. It’s judgemental. And in our day, it’s not tolerated.
Because our culture has raised tolerance to the status of primary core value, ironically having no tolerance for positions arbitrarily determined to be intolerant.
Here’s the problem: tolerance is acknowledging – within limits – the rights of others to hold different opinions, attitudes, beliefs; but over time, the definition has come to declare that all opinions, attitudes, beliefs and practices are equally valid, equally right, equally true.
The prevailing worldview in our era is pluralism. And we are called to embrace her close cousin, relativism.
Pluralism leaves room for different answers to the same question.
If we were to poll everyone at Tim Horton’s about how they take their coffee, we’d get different answers. If we asked these same people who they think will win the Stanley Cup, we’d get an even broader range of response. And if we finally queried whether they believe in climate change, and what if anything, the government should do about it, we may cause a mini-disturbance.
In this hypothetical survey of 3 questions, answers would be different, and many answers would be contradictory, even mutually exclusive.
However, relativism says I need to be open to this, because there are multiple paths to truth; and maybe all paths – even those that are contradictory – lead to truth for someone.
Pluralism works when it comes to matters of preference.
But not when it comes to matters of principle.
I have a sore stomach. I open the medicine cabinet, and consume the first medication I can find, sincerely believing that it will help. But if I’ve grabbed something to eliminate warts, I may make my situation worse.
My car breaks down in town minutes before an appointment. I hurriedly pull to the side of the road, and frantically jump on the first bus coming by. However, because I haven’t checked where it’s going, I may never get where I need to be.
My intention is to send to my wife an affectionate text message. Caught up in the romantic moment, I fire off a few words (if she has to scroll down, it’s too long!) without checking to see who the recipient might be. If it goes to my buddy next door…well, you get the idea.
In each of these 3 scenarios, my inattention to purpose or destination has likely voided my good intentions – and even made my situation worse.
I meant well. But with a range of options available to me, I simply selected too quickly, without checking relevant information – and made a bad choice.
We all understand that. In matters of preference, pluralism and relativism might work. But seldom in anything more important, and never in issues of eternal consequence.
Jesus talked about narrow and broad gates and roads in His Sermon on the Mount. The majority position is clear: For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But those moving through that gate and down that road aren’t intentionally rushing to be destroyed. They’ve convinced themselves – confused themselves – that pluralism and relativism work with issues of eternal principle.
Jesus said they don’t.
And the unhappy fallout of being wrong is forever.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
I’m reminded of another situation much later in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. After He had said some things that His followers found too narrow-minded to embrace, many walked away.
John records, From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.
But notice: among His followers, the same words that had repelled the unfaithful had the power to attract the authentic.
The hard truth that caused nominal disciples to abandon Him was the very truth that genuine Christ-followers clung to.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69).
Takeaway: There is a time and a place for the people of Christ to be narrow-minded; to judge right from wrong; to discern justice from evil. We are called to be people who stand up for truth, and call a lie what it is.
The result of failing at this God-appointed task for the Body of Christ will be grievous consequences for our children, grandchildren, and the generations that follow.
It is not overstating the issue to proclaim that these are matters of eternal significance.
~graphic by Afonso Lima, freeimages.co