Strait Gate

Narrow Door-way

    Sarah helped Thor hobble over to a wooden park bench. A family of mallards caught their eye. They watched as mom led the way, her ducklings all in a row behind her. The proud papa, splendid in his iridescent green and blue plumage, waddled alongside.
    They both silently wondered, hoped perhaps, that this might someday be them, married, with family in tow. Thor reflected, however, that unlike the ducks, she would wear the prettiest feathers in the family.
    "Sarah?" The admiral broke the silence. "This Christian stuff is important to you, isn't it?" He knew the answer. The question was a doorway to something else.
    "Yes. Why do you ask?"
    "You know I don't share your faith."
    "Does that bother you?"
    "We obviously like each other. I mean, I know I like you, and I think you like me, right?"
    "Yes. I like you a lot." She knew where he was going now.
    "Our relationship: is it dependent upon me agreeing with you?"
    "Believing yes, agreeing no. We can disagree on many things without it being a problem. See, my faith is a relationship, not a religion. Actually, I don't like religion very much. As a matter of fact, neither did Jesus. He wasn't the least bit religious."
    Adams cocked his head. He was puzzled.
    "For me it all boils down to one thing. Is Jesus God? If he is, my life has meaning. If he isn't, I'm a fool, and I don't have a clue how we got here or where we're going."
    "I don't believe in miracles, and I've never been able to stomach anybody's religious mumbo jumbo. But you're nobody's fool, of that I'm certain. And there's something good going on inside you."
    "Thank you, Thurston." She smiled, wrapping her arms around him. "You say the sweetest things."
    "So how do I get from where I am to where you are?"
    "Faith." Sarah could see that her answer deflated him. "Don't worry. Ultimately it takes more faith to believe there's no God than to acknowledge that he lives. It's not a leap in the dark, just a step into the light."
    His smile returned. He was embarking on a grand adventure. "So how are you gonna convince me?"
    "Oh, I'm not. God is."
--Craig Winn & Ken Power, Tea With Terrorists661

strait gate guide There are doorways and there are doorways, just as there are Bibles and there are bibles. The preacher reads from one (NIV) telling us to: (Luke 13:24) "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to," while I compared it to--KJV--(Luke 13:24) "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." According to the conversation above "It's not a leap in the dark, just a step into the light." That he would have to "make every effort to enter" seemed to deflate him, while "striv[ing] to enter" was but "embarking on a grand adventure."

Let's look at an application of the parable of the laborers.

    Work began in earnest on Monday, December 25th, which was Christmas, of course, but that made no difference to the Pilgrims--or at least not to the Saints, for they scorned Christmas as a "human invention," another Roman "corruption," a survival from heathen days, as indeed it was. John Robinson had dealt with the matter at some length in his Just and Necessarie Apologie, in which he took the Dutch to task for many things. They were not "true" Christians, he informed them, and never would be until they ceased celebrating Christmas--and Easter, too, for that matter. There was no warrant for either in Scripture. Christ had not celebrated Easter, for obvious reasons. As for Christmas, Robinson admitted that he did not know just when Christ had been born, but of one thing he was certain--"December 25th cannot be the time." ...
    It was a herculean undertaking for so few hands, but it was prosecuted with great vigor and "very cheerfully," for the most part, although there was some difficulty when the company was called to work on Christmas morning. Most of those who had come on the Fortune and a few of the Mayflower group "excused themselves and said it wente against their consciences to work on that day." Very well, said Bradford, if they made it a matter of conscience, he would excuse them "till they were better informed."
    But at noon, when he and his work gang came in for dinner, he found the Strangers "in ye streete at play, openly; some pitching ye barr, & some at stoole-ball, and shuch like sports. So he wente to them and tooke away their implements, and tould them it was against his conscience that they should play & others worke. If they made ye keeping of it a matter of devotion, let them keepe their houses, but there should be no gameing or revelling in ye streets, since which time," observed Bradford some years later, "nothing hath been attempted that way, at least openly."
--George F. Willison, Saints and Strangers662

At that time the Pilgrims and company were sharing provisions communally, along with the labor. They had certainly forsaken a lot to come to their new estate where they would have religious liberty. In answer to Peter's question what would they receive for having forsaken all to follow Christ, the Lord answered him quite a bit in this life and in the world to come eternal life. Directly He gave the parable of the laborers, saying the first would be last and vice versa. It is not a stretch at all to apply it here--in this life--where the ones who had quiet devotions at home on December 25th would be rewarded equally with those who worked a full week then.

The problem of not striving to enter in at the strait gate occurs when "all ye workers of iniquity" (Luke 13:27b) are out "gameing or revelling in ye streets" when they ought to be working for the kingdom, or at least having quiet devotions. But to "make every effort to enter" (NIV) would require working on Dec. 25th, otherwise not every effort has been made.

That's more than academic as Christmas occurred on Sunday the year his sermon was preached--2006. Although we had a healthy morning attendance, a good part of the congregation was not with us. Now, if they were out reveling in a heathen celebration, then, certainly an exhortation to strive to enter at the strait gate would be in order. But if it were a matter of conscience, of their staying home with their families to celebrate the birth of our savior and draw close to one another, then though they missed one Sunday's attendance, I figure they get the same reward as the faithful churchgoers. Fact is, since those in attendance know we are in the right place, God may even reward the Christmas celebrants first.

Unless we are going by the NIV where every effort must be made to enter through the narrow door. In that case we are supposed to be in church every Sunday irrespective of any Roman derived celebration.

At least the NIV is consistent with itself in this matter. We as a congregation are yoked together, so to speak, in service to God. Say it's a seven day a week proposition. Then if someone in our congregation has a nonchristian girlfriend or boyfriend, or fiancé/e, or marries a nonbeliever, then, why, where the rest of the congregation as Christian couples must serve the Lord together with their spouses as the Lord calls them, the mixed couple can't serve the Lord together as they would be unequally yoked. Yet so long as a Christian doesn't leave his first love to wax wanton against Christ, but leads a life of quiet example before his unbelieving spouse, he receives the same reward as the Christian couples who are serving the Lord together. This by the parable.

The NIV wants us to do everything to enter the narrow doorway, even marrying only to a Christian irrespective of our consciences in the matter. The widow marrying "only in the Lord" has been paraphrased to say of the one she marries: "but he must belong to the Lord" (NIV). That puts any Christian who marries a nonbeliever into the category of not being a "true" Christian same as those who celebrate Christmas. At least the NIV is consistent.

Our Focus on the Family bulletin (vol. 18, no. 12) cautions against couples marrying precipitously from some revelation seemingly from God telling them to. Instead, James Dobson tells us, "To honor our trust in Him, He gives us wisdom, common sense, and discretion, and He expects us to use them." J.B Phillips's translation paraphrases "only in the Lord" to say: "let her be guided by the Lord," which counsel Dr. James Dobson seems to be warning against. That could as well apply to the NIV where marrying only in the Lord should be more along the lines of using the wisdom, common sense, and discretion God gives us rather than just the fact that prospective spouses are Christian.

Of course, Bradford accepted shirking on Christmas "till they were better informed" and likewise once a nonchristian spouse does convert, then they can labor together equally yoked as a gospel team.


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Earl Gosnell
1950 Franklin Bv., Box 15
Eugene, OR 97403


Copyright © 2006, Earl S. Gosnell III

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

Permission is hereby granted to use the portions original to this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material. The material I myself have quoted has its own copyright in most cases, which I cannot speak for but have used here under the fair use doctrine.

I have quoted material from a couple sources for teaching, comment and illustration in this nonprofit teaching endeavor. The sources are included in a notes file. Such uses must be judged on individual merit, of course, so I cannot say how other uses of the same material might fare.

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Scripture quotation marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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