2009-02-08_1917-15_SigmaCam

Should Christians actively struggle and fight as they live out their lives with Jesus? Should they strive? If they did that, would they be falling into a legalistic trap? A destructive pietism that emphasizes law over grace?

The Bible is clear that we are not saved by the things we do—our works—but by grace and faith alone. Christians don’t have the righteousness necessary to have a relationship with the Father, to have eternal life. Only Jesus can supply that. Only He is perfectly righteous. However, it’s possible that truth can become an excuse to just let God “do His good works through us,” so, why not just let Him go ahead and do that? What are you worried about? That’s up to Him and His will to work in me, it’s not up to me. You may have heard a Bible teacher say that the law is “do,” and the gospel is “done.”

Boom. You’re saved. Don’t become legalistic. Holier than thou. Stop emphasizing those “do’s.”

Well, the Christian life is not that simple. We are to “do.” In fact, we are to struggle. Fight.

Here’s a command from Jesus Himself. “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” (Matthew 7:13–14).1

Now, what in the world does that mean, “enter through the narrow door”? What is this narrow gate of which Jesus spoke? Sounds constricting.

In this case, context helps us. In the previous verse, Jesus had said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). So, it seems like He is telling us that loving people is difficult. Narrow. This position is bolstered by the first six verses of Matthew 7, where He tells us not to be judgmental. Not to treat people like pigs. And it’s why following those verses, Jesus tells us to ask for help (Matthew 7:7-11).

My conclusion: Love is difficult. Not judging people is difficult. They don’t do what you think they should. Slights abound. Differences of opinion. Offenses. Annoyances. Yes, and sins, right out there for you to see, which you may need to deal with. Knowing this is the reality of life, Jesus commanded us to love each other, and so did Paul in his letters to the believers in Rome and Thessalonica. So did Peter and John in their letters. Really, it’s all over the place in the New Testament. We are often admonished to do so because loving people is downright demanding. We have to work at it.

Yes. We have to strive to love.

And, it’s true that love is a fruit of the Spirit. It appears that obedience combined with long-time discipleship with Jesus are necessary to get this thing right.

Nevertheless, John does not waffle on this issue: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

Could you please make that a little more clear, John?

Is our Christian walk “done”? No. It’s filled with “do’s.” Striving to enter the narrow gate is one of them. We cannot ignore this command. So, although salvation is freely given in grace, we have some “works” to do. James, as we know, wrote that faith without works is graveyard dead. Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, John the Baptist proclaimed.

Thus, I am to strive like crazy to enter the narrow gate while all the time realizing that I am saved by grace and faith alone. I cannot become self-righteous. I cannot be judgmental of those who seem to fall short by the rightly-held, biblical standards by which I live. I must love them. Yes, and in love, perhaps correct them.

There you are. Go right on ahead.

Strive. Enter that narrow gate.

1All Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society

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