The last two weeks I’ve offered a new framework through which we can view the scripture. The false self (Fake ID), and the true self (union with God) widen our field of view to see that spirituality is a much bigger consideration than conversion to a religion. Until we are free from religion’s framework, the teachings of Jesus will be misunderstood and used to make another religion.
Consider the parable of the gates and the roads in Matthew 7:13-14 and a similar passage in Luke 13:22-30.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Religions frame Heaven and Hell as eternal destinations and leverage the fear of the unknown as a threat to gain converts. The framework Jesus uses seems to be nuanced differently and last week I shared the keystone of his framework: Perfect Truth can know nothing (or no one) that is false. Union with God is synonymous with authenticity.
This parable is one of several within the larger sermon on the mount. This sermon (Matthew 5-7) is the ultimate reframing sermon. Jesus comes along and says six times; “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” The goal of his sermon was to reorient people from a scorecard religion, to a faith based on inner transformation.
The Golden rule is how we awaken our humanity (v.13). We must be awake enough to gain conscientiousness of others. Somehow, in knowing ourself and others, we come to know God. When we possess knowledge of God but not love of others, it proves we have a pseudonym (fake ID) and that we don’t know God, but also, God doesn’t know us (v.21-23).
The whole point is that waking up from the anesthesia of a false self doesn’t come easy. “Enter through the narrow gate.” (v.13) is the admonition. We must “strive” to enter (Luke 13:24). These parables are comparisons of how most people live their lives using the metaphor of gates and roads.
A gate is the entry point. It’s the onramp or transition period just before we are well on our way. The gate is the point of decision where altering course is the easiest. Once on a road, we may have to go some distance before we can turn around.
The gate is proportionate to the road. Wide gates open to wide roads, narrow gates to narrow roads. Wide roads are straighter, the pace is faster, it’s congested but travel is easy, (v.13) and it leads to destruction. Does this mean AC/DC is right? Is there a highway to Hell? The term “apoleian” is the Greek word for destruction or waste. Too often Christians infer this is a reference to eternal Hell. Considering this road “apago” (leads away, executes, extends to, deceives), a better translation is: “The majority of people live their lives asleep because its easier, but the end is a wasted life, a false life.”
Narrow gates are like subway turnstiles. We enter individually, not as a group. Passage is “thlebo” (constricted, difficult). The wide gate allows us to haul our trailer full of distractions, entertainments, and flags of self-importance. The narrow gate requires we shed even the smallest backpack of attachments. There is nothing on the narrow path that recognizes our fake ID. It’s a stark, single file, self-emptying process, that allows us to wake up to life. It is not a popular option. It defies conventional wisdom. The herd life numbs us, the stray, the solitary, is awakened to life by the struggle.
Last week I showed the end of everything false. This helps us see that this passage is not the typical binary threat of heaven and hell. While we would do well to get beyond the old fear based framework, we must not diminish the sobriety of the admonition within these texts. We don’t start out hoping to waste or destroy our lives, yet the majority of us do. Even our religions fail to free us from the false self and often just create a religious false self: “Didn’t we do many mighty works in your name?” (Matthew 7:23). The glaring truth is that despite what we think about ourselves, most of us are living a lie.
A few weeks ago I taught on the justice of Heaven and I know it ruffled some feathers. The same theme is retold in Luke 13:29. “…people will come from east and west, and from north and south and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Jesus is pointing us to a global inclusion and not a tribal religion. The qualifying distinction is not the religion to which we subscribe, but the authenticity or knowledge of our true self found in God.
The false cannot recline at table with Truth. The fake Id will not get us through the doorman. The pseudonym will want to go in, but will not be allowed. We’ll summon up our defense, we’ll justify why we should be allowed in based on our works (Luke 13:26, Matthew 7:22), but it’s useless so long as we think we are our false self. This is not a threat of eternal damnation, but a reminder that being separated from our true self, our true Source, is a place of suffering (weeping and gnashing of teeth (v.28)). Until that false part finally dies and burns a way (1 Corinthians 3:15), we will have no part of the Truth.
The path to life is here and now. So is the superhighway of pseudonyms and wasted life. The reason spirituality is so hard is because the false is so invisible to us. We latch on to everything under the sun. We exchange authenticity for a life of externals. We identify with all the wrong things and not our Maker.
But it’s not too late wake up. Ask the existential question: “Who am I?” Pay close attention to your answer. Ask again: “Is that really me?” Keep asking. Keep going and reverse engineer it all the way to eternity past. Find the “you” that is before all of this.. if you do, you’ll learn your true name.