This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
New English Translation (NET)
The Narrow Gate
13 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it!
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
Judgment of Pretenders
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
The wonder of Jesus teaching is its combination of the most generous welcome to all including the most notorious of sinners, with the strictest possible observance of the “commandments of the kingdom”. There is no narrowness in Jesus’ acceptance; and in his offer of God’s forgiveness; but there is no permissiveness with regard to the demands of God. To the person ready to turn towards God his arms are open; for the one who has begun to follow the Way, they point in one direction only. Believing in God’s love is one thing, travelling with it is another. God’s love accepts people for the sake of what they can become, then it shows precisely how they are to become new.
To become new is in Jesus language to become a good or sound tree. The rigorous practice of God’s Way builds a good person. Character is itself invisible, like the nature of the tree; but just as the tree proves its soundness by bearing good fruit, so the disciple’s character is clearly revealed in her actions and her effect on other people.
From this perspective Jesus issues a terrible warning to those who claim to be his followers: using his name enthusiastically will not secure entry to the holy community. People like that imagine that God has accepted them for the sake of what they already are and have refused the transforming discipline of his love.
The book of Hebrews says, “
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.
For me, these teachings of Jesus do this. They make me look at my discipleship and tremble.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Food Sacrificed to Idols
8 With regard to food sacrificed to idols, we know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know. 3 But if someone loves God, he is known by God.
4 With regard then to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live.
7 But this knowledge is not shared by all. And some, by being accustomed to idols in former times, eat this food as an idol sacrifice, and their conscience, because it is weak, is defiled. 8 Now food will not bring us close to God. We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do. 9 But be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a hindrance to the weak. 10 For if someone weak sees you who possess knowledge dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience be “strengthened” to eat food offered to idols? 11 So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed. 12 If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 For this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin.
Paul is dealing with an issue which is irrelevant to the lives of many believers today, but the principle by which he judges right action is still very relevant. He agrees with the “knowledgeable” Christians who can see that if idols are human constructs then food offered to them can be eaten without betraying one’s faith. But there are other sincere souls who can’t see this and remain horrified by the thought of eating such food. Now, asks Paul, what’s important here? Is it important that some can parade their more sophisticated understanding? Or is it not rather that the shared life of the whole community should be strengthened. “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” In the shared life of the Christian community, knowledge is not neglected but it is used in the service of love.
Like Jesus, Paul announced the saving love of God for all; like Jesus again, he knows God’s Way is narrow.