Living in Community – Direction and Discernment

“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 NIV)

Jesus continues with His Sermon on the Mount summary in Matthew chapter 7.  In these two verses, Jesus challenges His disciples (and us) to choose their (and our) path forward very carefully.

Everything Jesus has taught during His Sermon on the Mount has been counter-cultural:

  • The Beatitudes show us we come to God in brokenness and humility, not self-righteousness
  • The remainder of chapter 5 shows us God’s standard of righteousness that far supersedes mankind’s “rules”
  • In Chapter 6, Jesus outlines our counter-cultural conduct in this new righteousness
  • In Chapter 7, Jesus flips the definitions on living in community from a critical spirit toward others to loving others

And now, Jesus says, we have a choice.  There are two doors before us – which one will we pick?

John Oxenham, the prolific British journalist, novelist, and poet, wrote about this choice before us, in his poem entitled “The Ways”:

To every man there openeth
A Way, and Ways, and a Way,
And the High Soul climbs the High Way,
And the Low Soul gropes the Low,
And in between, on the misty flats,
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A High Way, and a Low.
And every man decideth
The Way his soul shall go.

Let’s not kid ourselves – Jesus’ challenge is hard.  Some of His more casual followers even saw it as an ultimatum, and for them, it was too much.  In John chapter 6, Jesus is teaching His disciples and other followers that He is the bread of life.  In verse 60, many disciples are struggling with Jesus’ teaching, and by verse 66, they are gone (John 6:60-71).  Jesus asks point blank of His chosen disciples, the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (v. 67)

In my mind’s eye, I can see Peter with tears in his eyes, humbly responding: “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.”  (vv. 68-69)

Near the end of His ministry, Jesus is telling His disciples that He must leave them.  Even after three years together, some of His disciples are still struggling with Jesus, who He is, and what His mission is.  Jesus make it crystal clear:
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
(John 14:5-7 NIV)

But we see the disciples finally understood Jesus’ message, and carried it forth fearlessly.  In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John are arrested and questioned about their teaching.  Peter, speaking of Jesus, proclaims:
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
(Acts 4:12 NIV)

What is our choice today?  Will we take the easy way and go along with the crowd, or will we choose the hard way, and follow Jesus?  To not make a choice is to choose the easy way.

I stand with Joshua, and Jesus:  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24:14-15)