The Sermon, part 26: Two Roads

Read Matthew 7:13-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30 NRSV)

two_roads_by_jelly_bonWe have now entered into the final section of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, which is a series of three eschatological (end-time) warnings. The first of the warnings is a very famous and often misunderstood teaching which utilizes two roads, one which is broad and wide with many traveling on it, the other which is long and narrow with few ever finding it, let alone travelling down it. The more desirable road leads to the desirable gate EVER; whereas, the less than desirable road leads to the most desirable gate of all.

Of course, we all know which roads these are, even though they are literal roads. Even if we have never stepped foot into a church or picked up a Bible, there are very few in the Western World (and beyond) that haven’t heard AC/DC’s Highway to Hell song blaring out of the speakers. Conversely, many know the less than desirable road as the road or the way to Heaven. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Michael Landon even had a show called “Highway to Heaven” which, despite it’s name, showed the “straight and narrow” road of God through the eyes of an angel seeking to do good in the world.

Pretty simple so far, right? It seems pretty clear that the well-traveled road leads to hell and the least traveled road leads to heaven, right? It seems clear that those on the highway to hell are outside of Christ, while those on the jagged trail to heaven are those who belong to and follow Christ, right? If all of this is true, it then follows that the warning is for all of the people who are choosing the wrong road, right? It must be a warning for all of the people choosing the “easy way” over the straight, narrow, rugged trail that leads to heaven.

Who do you think we’d find on the highway to hell? Perhaps, the adulterers, the addicts, the theives, the sex offenders, the greedheads, the liars, the cheaters, the prostitutes, and the wild partiers? In some Christian circles, anyone listening to AC/DC or bands like Marilyn Manson are traveling the Highway to Hell; if you think about it though, that is kind of like a badge of  honor to Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal bands! I mean, for real! Beyond the Highway to Hell, who do you think are going to heaven? Well, duh! Christians, right? As for music, what could possibly be better than listening to the Newsboys sing “God’s Not Dead” live for an eternity in heaven. Yes, that was sarcasm.

While all of this may seem clear and obvious, it is actually wrong to assume all of the above. First, we must remember that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount” is being addressed to Jesus’ disciples, not to the masses. Yes, the multitude gathered are listening in and they do apply to them as well; however, Jesus’ warning is not geared toward the outsider; rather, it is being delivered for the insiders.

The roads to hell and/or heaven are not predicated on what music you listen to, what your view on same-sex marriage is or isn’t, or whether or not you are Christian. Hard to believe, right? Well, it is the truth. In fact, Jesus preached this Sermon before the term Christian (let alone the relgion) even existed. Rather, these roads are being presented as a warning to Jesus’ followers who have just been instructed on the standared God is calling us to uphold.

The “Highway to Hell” is the easy road. It is the road  most people travel because it requires little work or commitment. It does not have much, if any, accountability. The Highway to Hell is the road that tells us that we can be the judge and jury of what God wants. It is the way that abandons the very heart of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. The rugged, narrow and long road to heaven is hard to find and remain on because it requires an absolute commitment to Christ and his way of being. It means making Christ’s way our way, and since Christ’s way leads to the cross, most would rather just not go there.

When I say “most”, one must avoid the inevitbale pitfall of thinking “non Christians”. Again, as a reminder, Jesus is addressing his disciples. These are the people who are following Jesus, not the ones who are not. What this means is that Jesus is warning HIS DISCIPLES to avoid choosing the easy way, over his way! The only way to heaven, according to Jesus, is summed up in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, for this is the Law and the prophets.” The Golden Rule, of course, is the summation of the two Greatest Commandments.

Thus the easy way to love oneself, one’s agenda, one’s idealogy, one’s theology, one’s doctrine, one’s religion, one’s whatever over and above loving others as oneself. To do this is to also love onself over and above God. That is the easy way and most, if not all, of us find it without any trouble at all; however, Christ is calling us to a wholly different and harder way and warning us that our way leads to our own destruction. Christ’s way, however, leads to the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The long and rugged pathway to heaven is the cross; it is the way of love.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to embrace the long and rugged pathway to heaven. Amen.

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