"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 is the road that leads to life and only a few find it." — Matthew 7:13-14. On the plane ride back to Rome from his recent trip to Brazil, Pope Francis was asked his opinion regarding the sexual orientation of Catholic priests.
Not allowing himself to be pushed off track, he replied, “Who am I to judge?” His comment signaled a major shift in the Catholic Church’s thinking on that particular subject.
Both liberal and conservative Christians get caught up in judging others. In some cases, we condemn and, in other cases, we condone what some might call private issues of personal accountability, matters perhaps better dealt with in private prayer between God and the individual.
Christians are casting judgment on abortion, sexual orientation, adultery, divorce and sexual abuse. Admittedly, the Bible makes it clear that all are important matters. But the fact is argument over them is dividing the Body of Christ and driving people away from Christ, rather than drawing them to Him and into His church.
Because of our moral decay, it’s growing harder for all to stay on track and follow Christ up “the narrow road” into His Father’s Kingdom, so sometimes we all get off track.
During the journey up the King’s highway, the sinful nature dies, is buried and then resurrected as a new life, in Christ. We Christians are taught to believe that through the Resurrection we are free from both moral and ethical decay, as well as from the traditional ceremonial law.
Yet many of us think like pharisees, that it’s the other person who is off track and not us. Thus, many Christians are becoming more and more judgmental about who is right and who is wrong. What we should do is what the pope did, as he paraphrased Jesus’ discussion with the Rich Fool, in Luke 12:14, asking him, “Man, who appointed me a judge or arbiter between you?” In other words, “Who am I to judge?”While traveling up the highway, we should carefully scrutinize the ever-changing moral landscape, using the Bible as our searchlight to help us stay on track.
On the King’s highway, we learn Heaven and Earth are contrary to each other. Affection towards Earth weakens our affection for Heaven and Scripture makes it clear we cannot love them both.
On track, we despise earthly things and love heavenly things. On track, the sinful nature is gone and “bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, and dirty talk” (Col. 3:7-8 MSB) should all leave with it.
On track, we understand that one day we will all live eternally somewhere, either Heaven or Hell. On track, we define sin for ourselves, become dead to its power and are subdued by God’s grace.
On track, Christ’s presence becomes more apparent and streams of living water flow into our souls and help us guard against lust, greed, and possessiveness.
On track, we see changes in the road signs and our higher nature. Christ’s presence supports proper reason and good conscience over our lower nature’s natural appetites and passions.
On track, we know it’s the duty of everyone on the King’s highway to be holy. And we know we must not only not hurt anyone or judge one another; we must also make every effort to do whatever good we can do for everyone.
It can get bitterly cold on the King’s highway. Scripture tells us we must dress warmly in the new wardrobe God has picked out for us to wear; the basic undergarment is love.
Christ’s love is “laced with compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, and even-tempered, able to be content with second place and quick to forgive” (Colossians 3:9-11 MSB).
On track, we notice the landscape of people and places change, too, as we let the peace of God rule in our hearts. When questioned about matters of sin, we, too, can say what Christ said to the crowd looking to stone an adulterous woman, after a moment of hesitation, “If anyone of you is without sin, then let him be the first to cast a stone.” (John 8:7)
When Christ-like words dwell in us, our souls prosper as Jesus joins us on track as He joined Pope Francis, who spoke as Christ would have, saying, “Who am I to judge?”
*The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org