In these four posts we are contemplating how to think about Jesus’ telling his listeners that they should “strive to enter through the narrow door.
In part one of this series, we considered the importance of the word “strive.” This means continual effort toward something. You’ve never messed up so bad you can’t start striving. Each day you can choose the direction in which to strive. (CLICK HERE to read part one). Now let’s think about narrowness for a moment.
I can think of at least three ideas that the metaphor of a narrow door carries with it:
In this and the next two posts, we will think briefly about three concrete ways we can “enter through the narrow door.” Three decisions about how to act that are often counter to natural human impulse and, yet, are the way of Christ.
The first of the three we will cover in this series is responding to aggression, anger or hate with love.
The natural human response to a perceived attack (aggression, anger or hate) is either fight or flight, attack or escape. Responding to hate with love means turning from the natural instinct of aggression or withdrawal to the narrow door of love. Jesus said,
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
This is not a natural response. On the surface, we think of people who fight as strong and people who flee as weak. But neither of those is the way of Christ.
The way of Christ is to be “meek.” “Meek” is a word we don’t use often in English or we use it as a synonym for bashful. But the definition of meek from the times of the New Testament is quite different. It has to do with purposefully restraining one’s self.
meek: enduring injury with patience and without resentment.
To be meek is to be strong enough to neither flee nor fight but remain present in love. Jesus said:
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to them the other also
He also said:
If someone forces you carry his pack a mile, carry it another mile.
If anyone would take your coat, give them your cloak as well.
There’s a lot of culture subtext behind these commands, but they are rooted in meekness. In each of these situations, Jesus instructs us to respond the aggression, force or hate with love.
Peter sums it up this way:
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. — 1 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
I don’t know how you feel about responding to aggression, anger or hate with love, but it seems like a “narrow door” situation to me. Yet for those who follow Christ, that is the door we are to strive to enter.
The final two posts in this series will reflect on two other specific decisions we can make to enter through the “narrow door.”
2) Respond to trespasses with forgiveness
3) Respond to difficulty with hope