Following Jesus Will Feel Like the “Wrong” Way
by John Dickson
Following the Teacher will occasionally run counter to the world around us. It will at times be unpopular—a minority position. As Jesus warned in his Sermon on the Mount:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus probably intended this as a specific description of the response of first-century Israel to his teaching. But it has been disturbingly true of other periods as well. Sometimes—though not always—following Christ as teacher is a lonely, counter-cultural experience. The wider public might like the idea of Jesus as teacher but I am not sure it always has time for the actual content of his teaching. Some of what he said almost certainly puts aspects of Western culture (and church life) on the “broad road” rather than the “narrow” one. Christians have often said that applying Jesus’ teaching to everyday life at times feels like driving the wrong way up a one-way street (to extend Jesus’ road metaphor). But this is to be expected if Jesus’ claims are true and he really is the divinely appointed Teacher.
A truth that is relevant for all human cultures will, by definition, contradict any particular human culture at some point, since societies are constantly in flux, sometimes coinciding with the truth, other times deviating from it.
People who seek to adjust Jesus’ teaching—as the modern church sometimes does—in an attempt to make it more “relevant” often end up doing just the opposite. In the first century as much as the twenty-first the power and poignancy of Jesus’ teaching is that it sounds like a voice from outside human society. It is a voice that knows us only too well, and it calls on us to live beyond the historical blip of our particular culture.
Editor’s Note: Adapted from A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus by John Dickson. Copyright © 2018 by John Dickson. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
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