Being inept at face-to-face evangelism, I admit to handling things poorly when I spotted the man drawing the labyrinth on Boston Common last week. I’ve been seeing those odious things littering the Common all year, and have felt anger at these symbols of mysticism and contemplative prayer. So I opened the conversation declaring, “That’s disgusting!”
Maybe not the best opening line. As I said, face-to-face evangelism isn’t my forte.
Nevertheless, it opened the conversation, in which he insisted he wasn’t a pagan (I never said he was) and that he was a Christian (I never said he wasn’t). I kept pleading with him, “You don’t have to do this! Jesus died so you could pray directly to God!”
Finally, he looked directly at me to ask, “And how do you pray?” I began telling him how I go straight to God, adoring Him for His attributes and confessing my sins…at which point the man interrupted to pronounce, “Your God is too narrow!”
At that moment John joined me and took the lead. Sadly the guy had no interest in interaction with John, despite the fact that John’s much more winsome than I’ll ever be, and he dismissed us quickly.
I’ve since thought about his accusation that “my” God is too narrow. In his mind, narrowness is a negative quality. Like many others I’ve witnessed to over the years, he expected me to feel shamed by the word “narrow.”
To the world, spirituality should broadly encompass everything (except, of course Biblical Christianity). People of the world celebrate inclusiveness, certain that God accepts people on their self-prescribed terms. And hey, that view of God sounds really nice! Sadly, however, that view diminishes the Lord to a mushy Being Who adapts Himself to our personal preferences. Worse, we believe in our own divinity, which practices like the labyrinth can help us discover.
Jesus made it clear that following Him and receiving salvation actually requires narrowness. Look at His words near the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount:
13 “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. 14 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 (ESV)
To clarify this statement, Jesus later told His disciples:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~~John 14:6 (ESV)
Talk about narrow! These claims really go against everything that tolerant, broad minded people want to believe. To believe that salvation comes exclusively through the Lord Jesus Christ places us under His authority, and consequently means that we must worship Him on His terms rather than our own. And we don’t like that idea.
But narrowness also offers protection. When I had surgery to loosen my leg muscles as a teenager, I had casts on both legs for six weeks. Those casts confined me to bed when I otherwise would have been enjoying the summer driving my power wheelchair around town with my puppy. But they also protected my muscles from healing improperly (and undoubtedly kept me out of trouble).
Spiritually, the Lord’s narrowness protects us from false teaching and demonic influences. Although the broad way appears more enjoyable, it actually keeps us from teachings that would damage our souls. The Lord, being more knowledgeable than we are regarding spiritual forces, confines us to Himself and His plan of worship to guard us against destructive practices that we can’t understand.
So yes, “my” God is, in one sense, narrow. But if anyone expects me to feel shame over His narrowness, I must disappoint them.