“Strive to enter through the narrow door.” – Jesus of Nazareth
In the first post in this 4 part series, we talked about the text in which this saying occurs. (CLICK HERE to read it)
In the second post in this 4 part series, we contemplated the idea of “narrowness.” We then talked about the first of 3 ways of striving for the narrow door: Respond to hate/anger/aggression with love. (CLICK HERE to read it)
Now let’s consider the second of these three ways of responding to the world:
2. Respond to Trespass with Forgiveness
I chose “trespass” over “sin” for a specific reason. “Sin” means “to miss the mark,” to not be perfect. No reasonable person expects perfection of other people. We don’t have to forgive others for not being perfect.
To “trespass” means to “cross the line.” We all know we aren’t perfect. But everyone reading this has had someone “cross the line” with them. That’s a different story!
What is the most natural human response to someone trespassing against you? It’s not to seek balanced retribution. The most natural human response is to trespass back and turn it up! If someone moves the boundary stone one foot East, you move it two feet West. If someone hits you, you hit them back harder. But then what happens? The original offender then feels like the second person overdid it, so he amps it up another notch. This is the growth pattern for every large-scale fight whether is a verbal argument, a court battle, or a physical altercation.
The law of retribution in the Old Testament follows the rule of balanced retribution:
If there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. — Exodus 21:23–25 (ESV)
This way of looking at things is an improvement over natural human tendencies to ratchet up a conflict. But it is not the narrow door of the kingdom of God.
Jesus calls to live God’s way: forgiving the trespass. Jesus had clear words for his followers about the necessity of forgiving others:
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. — Matthew 6:14–15 (ESV)
These are strong words. But Jesus practiced what he preached in the most trying of circumstances.
Can you imagine the scene of the crucifixion? Jesus has been beaten with an inch of his life. He is being nailed to a cross where he will hang until he has died. He looks at his executioners and utters these famous words:
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” — Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Responding to trespasses with forgiveness is not natural. It is the narrow door which Jesus calls us to strive for as his followers.
Paul wrote of this forgiveness to the Christians in Colossae:
…forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. — Colossians 3:13 (ESV)
As it turns out, forgiveness is not only expected of Jesus’ followers, it makes for a longer, healthier life. (CLICK HERE for my post, “To Live Longer Healthy Happier, Learn to Forgive,” for some scientific research on forgiveness.)
Next up: The final post in this 4 part series on striving for the narrow door: Respond to difficulty with hope.