I was thinking of Mt. 7:14-15 yesterday, the wide gate and broad way vs. narrow gate and straight way passage; and I saw something I had never seen before. As you know, it is traditionally interpreted to speak of us getting into heaven through a correct set of beliefs. If we believe correctly, then we’re ok. However, I believe this traditional interpretation completely misses the point. And the point is understood only from the context.
Mt. 7:14-15 comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount and what many people fail to note is that in much, most of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is specifically countering the errant beliefs, wrong attitudes, and bad practices of the Pharisees. One of the key phrases that helps us understand this is “you have heard it said”; this was an idiomatic way of referencing the Oral teachings of the Pharisees, elsewhere called the traditions of the fathers. The Pharisees believed that these teachings were the proper interpretation and application of the Written Law of Moses. In fact, they believed that one could not correctly understand and live out the Written Law without these Oral traditions. So when Jesus says “you’ve heard it said”, He is referencing these oral teachings, practices, and beliefs of the Pharisees.
For example, concerning Oaths, the Pharisees had a whole system of oaths that allowed them to lie without technically sinning against God. They could swear by the temple and it didn’t really count, but if they swore by the gold on the temple it did count. So Jesus instructed His audience to not give into that and rather to be a person of integrity whose “yes means yes” and “no means no”.
And concerning praying in public, it’s good to pray. And it’s good to lead coorporate prayer. But if one is doing it so that they can gain the admiration of others, then he is doing it for the wrong reason and it does him no good. And concerning adultery, the Pharisees taught that a married man could sleep with any woman except another Jewish man’s wife and not be committing adultery. Jesus though pointed out how foolish that was and instead called people to not even lust.
So what was the narrow and straight way? It is the convergence of right beliefs, right actions, and right attitudes! These lead to life, abundant life, life filled with and blessed by God! Anything less leads to death and destruction! One can have right beliefs and even right actions, but if one’s attitude is wrong then it’s worthless, even deadly. One can have the right attitudes and beliefs, but if one does not put action with it then it’s worthless, useless, a house built on sand. And if one’s beliefs are wrong, these profoundly effect one’s attitudes and actions. They are all three closely related and strongly influence each of the others. The convergence of all three being right “right” is truly narrow like a narrow security gate through which one must pass where every hidden thing is exposed.
So Jesus is calling us to a convergence of right attitudes, right doctrine, and right actions – the Narrow Way – honesty and integrity of heart, mind, and deeds which leads to a life blessed by God, eternal life! Anything less results in death and destruction!