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“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.
But what did Jesus mean when He said that? Just what is the “narrow gate?”
The traditional view is that getting through the narrow gate means you should spend your life “staying pure.” Or spend that life focusing on staying “sinless.” That view in turn implies that no matter how much suffering is going on in the world, no matter how many millions of people are starving, or are oppressed, or are otherwise being killed off or maimed, none of that matters to God as long as you – yourself – stay “sinless” and “pure.”
Which sounds to me – after 13 trips through the Bible – like a crock.
It seems to me – after a lifetime of experience, and going through the Bible 13 times now – that there’s a better, more accurate answer. That answer is: “Forget about staying pure: Do something with your life!” In other words, God probably couldn’t care less how “pure” you stay, if you do nothing to help make the world a better place. If further words: Don’t turn too “conservative!” See for example How narrow is the narrow gate? – GotQuestions.org.
The gist of that post is that “many will follow the broad road.” And that’s what we have in America today. The “many” are following the broad road of so-called “Conservative Christianity.” (Which to me is a classic oxymoron, or more precisely, a contradiction in terms.)
That is, there are a great many so-called Conservative Christians in America today, and they are the “many” who showed their power by helping elect Donald Trump. Then too, they are the “many” who are driving other Americans away from the Christian Faith, “in droves.” See No wonder there’s an exodus from religion, which began with this:
Do you wonder why the proportion of Americans declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion has skyrocketed in recent decades? This trend is especially pronounced among adults under 30, roughly 40 percent of whom claim no connection to a religious congregation or tradition and have joined the ranks of those the pollsters call the “nones.”
The article noted the “partisan irresponsibility” creating a powerful skepticism among young Americans “about what it means to be religious.” (Largely due to “Trump-humping evangelicals.”) In plain words, young Americans increasingly see a strong connection between organized religion and conservative politics. To them, conservative politics and organized religion stand together, and they are leading us “toward the right in the culture wars.”
Which is bad news for those of us striving to be “Real Christians.” (And for the Faith itself.) See No wonder:
If a chaplain could be rebuked for voicing [a] simple and undeniable truth, what’s the point of the “religious liberty” that Trump and his GOP allies celebrate? And when will those who advertise themselves as religion’s friends realize they can do far more damage to faith than all the atheists and agnostics put together?
The “chaplain” was Reverend Pat Conroy, Chaplain to the House of Representatives, just fired and “re-hired” by Paul Ryan. And the long and short of the story is that House Republicans were more inclined to fire their chaplain than “impose accountability on a president who is a proven liar and trashes the rule of law for his own selfish purposes day after day.” In other words, they were more inclined to “comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.”
But we digress. The point of this post is that becoming a “conservative Christian” is taking the easy way. And that’s because it’s so much easier to be a “literalist.” You don’t have to think, you don’t have to take chances, you never have to worry about falling on your face because you made a wrong decision. In other words, you never truly “live,” and you will certainly never, ever get to the point where you can perform greater miracles than Jesus, as He commanded.
Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation…
In other words, if Jesus had been a conservative, we would never have the Beatitudes.
In further words, it’s the Christians who choose to remain conservative – who choose to never graduate from spiritual boot camp (at right) – who are the “many” taking the broad, easy road. It’s only we – striving to be “real Christians” by following Luke 24:45 – who will get through that narrow gate. And on that I am literally betting my life…
So what could happen if you do turn too conservative? You could end up a Pharisee:
Because of the New Testament‘s frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers … the word “pharisee”… has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit.
In other words, the Pharisees were a “plague unto Jesus” in His own time, and they remain so “even to this day.” (Indeed, perhaps more so.) And that is leading to what Paul noted in Romans 2:24: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
In plain words, those “Trump-humping evangelicals” are failing in their duty to God…
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The ongoing “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees….”
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The upper image is courtesy of Sermon on the Mount – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘Sermon on the Mount’ by Carl Bloch.” The article noted that this Sermon is best known for the “Beatitudes,” which “present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction; they echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion.”
The complete Bible readings for Saturday, May 5, 2018 are: “AM Psalm 75, 76; PM Psalm 23, 27 Lev. 23:23-44; 2 Thess. 3:1-18; Matt. 7:13-21.” The full set of Bible readings for Monday, May 7: “AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 77,  Lev. 25:35-55; Col. 1:9-14; Matt. 13:1-16.”
See also the Bible readings for Friday, May 4, which include Matthew 7:1-2: ““Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” That’s another Bible passage “more honored in the breach” by today’s “Trump-humping evangelicals.” See also On “holier than thou”,” about Jesus’ Parable of the Mote and the Beam, ) The full readings for Friday, May 4, 2018: “AM Psalm 106:1-18; PM Psalm 106:19-48[;] Lev. 23:1-22; 2 Thess. 2:1-17; Matt. 7:1-12.”
Re: Comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.” As noted in “Trump-humping,” the real job of both Christians and reporters is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” See also James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The lower image is courtesy of Pharisees – Wikipedia. The caption: “Gustave Doré: Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.” As to placing the letter of the law above its spirit, see 2d Corinthians 3:6.
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Re: The number of times I’ve read through the Bible. See Reflections on a loss:
I started my spiritual journey that led to this blog back in the summer of 1992. That’s when I started reading the Bible on a daily basis – using the DORs – and also started fine-tuning my exercise “ritual sacrifice.”
Re: “Blasphemed among the Gentiles.” The quote is from the English Standard Version. See also the New Living Translation: “No wonder the Scriptures say, ‘The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.'” This follows Romans 2:23: You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law? See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:
From the LXX. version of Isaiah 52:5… The Apostle [Paul] is not careful as to the particular context from which he draws. He knew that he was giving the substance of Scripture, and he takes the aptest words that occur to him at the moment. Translated into our modern modes [it] amounts to little more than “in the language of Scripture.” The intention, as so frequently with St. Paul, seems, as it were, to be divided between proof and illustration.