“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt 7:13-14).
Last week I found myself driving in unfamiliar territory. Following a cryptic paper map; I was attempting to navigate my way through a maze of inner-city streets towards my destination. I was sandwiched in a line of cars waiting to make a turn when the air was filled with the sound of a truck horn. Several short bursts and then a prolonged blast resounded as a large tractor-trailer rig executed a right hand turn. Swinging wide to make the corner, the car at the front of the line was privileged to an up close view of the truck’s grill and was regaled with continued volleys from the trucker’s horn. Cars shifted into reverse and slowly inched backwards to make room for the truck, the tractor of which was now fully in “our” lane.
With due respect to those who haul freight for a living, I wouldn’t have wanted to trade places with that trucker. The roads in the business section of town were congested and narrow. But, I couldn’t escape the notion that this particular trucker would become the subject of many a conversation in the next few hours. “I was downtown this afternoon and here comes this trucker… He was trying to make a turn in the hotel district and came way over into our lane, horn blaring. He was way over the line and didn’t seem to care…” Likely this one driver’s rudeness and lack of foresight helped confirm someone’s stereotype of truckers as being less than sterling in character. “He was way over the line and didn’t seem to care…”
Do the unsaved ever have opportunity to ask the same question of the Christian? Do we ever “swing wide” while traveling on the narrow way? It is possible that the driver of that truck had safely driven hundreds of thousands of miles in his career. yet, it would be those few moments of indiscretion that would shape the perception of an entire industry in the minds of the drivers and pedestrians present that day. In the same fashion, the brief, indiscrete actions of one Christian can shape another person’s assessment of an entire group. The testimony of the church and of Christ is impacted when others recognize that a Christian is no longer within the lines of the narrow way. “He was way over the line and didn’t seem to care…” The summer months offer ample opportunity to “swing wide.” Vacations and family relaxation are not inherently wrong, but care and forethought are required if we are going to stay on the narrow way. The unsaved are very perceptive in recognizing when we have left the path of holiness and swung wide into the “fast lane of carnal indulgence.” Like the cars at the traffic light, those of the world can become intensely critical when a professing Christian “crosses the line” and encroaches upon their territory. Christians shouldn’t go to the beach; they don’t belong at a county fair, a rodeo, a concert. The narrow way simply doesn’t lead to those types of places. Our neighbors may not read the Bible, but they should never have reason to question if we can stay on the road.
Sadly, too many people can point to an “intersection experience” where a Christian took license to “swing wide” and departed the narrow way. Like the trucker, we might argue that our actions “were necessary to make the turn” and we fully intend to get back on the narrow way promptly. Too often, those who witnessed our indiscretion never follow us to see corrections made. They only remember the time they saw someone who professed to be a disciple of Jesus Christ clearly out of his lane.
I have a friend who drives truck for a livelihood. I have found him to be a professional driver in every sense of the word. Years ago; he told me, “The most important thing you can put in your truck is your brain, it keeps you out of trouble.” For the Christian, it is the Spirit of God living within that keeps us from intersections requiring that we “swing wide.” as Christ’s witnesses here on earth it should not be our goal to display how skillfully we can extricate ourselves from circumstances that predispose us to compromise, but rather to avoid such situations in the first place.
The Scriptures instruct the Christian to “walk by the Spirit, not after the flesh, but in newness of life.” Walking in the Spirit implies moving at a slower pace than most of worldly society today. Walking in the midst of society’s traffic reminds me of how vulnerable I am, and encourages me to remain circumspect. By walking in the Spirit, I am directed to avoid situations where I might be tempted to “swing wide.” Best of all; by walking in the Spirit, I can be assured that I will be found of Him on the narrow way.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:25).
— Reinholds PA