From the Editor ...

Sight Seeing Off Broadway

Jack M. Lane

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:12-14, KJV).

Broad is the way that leads to destruction. Narrow is the Way that leads to life. Many people -- the vast majority, it seems -- live on Broadway. Few people seek out the street which is called Strait.

Following on the heels of the "Golden Rule," the Messiah's advice regarding which path to follow has been one of the most quoted passages in history. Yet, how many people have really understood what He was saying? If you're like me, you probably thought you knew what Christ meant, back when you first came into contact with this Way of life. If you're like me, you've probably had to re-evaluate.

Before we understood what God was trying to tell us, we saw no problem with being on the broad road everyone else was treading. But when God called us, we changed course.

In recent years, many people in God's church have come to realize that, even though they were shuffling down the strait and narrow path, they had actually been limping along with one foot in the ditch! Some have even stopped to re-evaluate if they had been on the right path at all!

There is one thing Christ did not point out in the simple illustration He gave: While there may be a narrow and difficult path to follow, it is not the only one! Someone could get off Broadway and stumble down a narrow path, but it might be the wrong one!

How do we find the right path? Do we rely on our own understanding? That won't always work (Proverbs 16:25). It's better to rely on God's understanding (Proverbs 2:5-6). We need God to show us the right road to take. It does no good to put our confidence in men, even in men of high degree (Psalm 146).

We may have had complete trust in certain men in the past, and we might have been fully persuaded that they were showing us the right path, but some of them turned out to be blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:14)! Would a blind leader be able to lead someone who can see? Not for long! But once we were ready to see, and no longer needed to be led by the hand, our blind leaders were reluctant to let us go. Therein lies quite a bit of the anxiety we experienced when we left corporate church organizations.

Our God will not only show us the right path, but will even provide a light for the path (Psalm 119:105)! Let's imagine that we had gone camping a few years ago, and had purchased a new lantern to take with us. Imagine that, rather than using the lantern ourselves, we had covered our eyes with our hand and relied on the ranger to take us by the hand and lead us along, telling us what our own lantern illuminated! Pretty silly idea, isn't it?

Imagine if we were to go camping now, and were to use the lantern ourselves. We would be absolutely amazed if we were using our own lantern for the first time to light the path for us, so that we could see for ourselves, and so we could go down the path at our own speed. Why, we would wonder how we had ever gotten by doing it the old way, relying on someone else to tell us what was on the path!

This is an analogy for what took place in the corporate Church of God in the past. Members were, in fact, not permitted to use their own lanterns or to seek the correct path their own way. Members were told to cover their eyes and let the ranger lead them. Members were forbidden to peek, or to question if another way might be better.

The problem with covering our eyes and letting the ranger do all the leading is that we will only be able to go where we are led by the ranger! If he takes us somewhere else, somewhere we wouldn't want to go, we have fallen into a trap. If he takes us a roundabout way, it may take longer to get to where the trail is leading. If there is a stone of stumbling along the way, we will not see it, and we can easily trip and fall.

The worst aspect of being conditioned to follow, blindly being led by the hand, is the development of a dependency, a strong need for a strong leader. Many people who have been conditioned to accept this lifestyle for years are today incapable of looking down the path for themselves, and feel the need to be told which way to go, even after the blinders are removed!

We have seen many congregations fit this scenario. The pastor, a strong-willed leader, is fully in charge of his docile followers. They agree that they are a timid flock of sheep, needing to be cared for and protected by this shepherd. The pastor, on the other hand, is frequently someone who needs to be in control, or needs to be involved with everyone's lives, or simply needs to feel needed. His eager and accepting followers feed his needs, as he feeds theirs.

Many call this type of relationship co-dependency, and are of the opinion that it is not healthy. Yet, it seems to work for the people involved, and if that's what they need to make it to the first resurrection, who are we to judge another's servants? (Romans 14:4) For many people, though, that system is not satisfactory, and the strong pastor usually finds a way to get rid of those people (the "trouble-makers") who don't fit in with the group of docile followers.

Sadly, this same scene is being played out over and over again today, on Broadway and off Broadway, in larger Church of God corporations and in smaller ones.

Jesus said the Way would be difficult. Few would find it. Presumably, it would follow that, of those who do find the path, fewer still will make it to the end. Following the strait and narrow is much, much more than just going to services and paying tithes. How can we convince those church members who will not believe that? Perhaps the church congregations would make a good missionary field!

Our Savior has given us what we need to be able to find the Way He has chosen for us. The tools are in our hands, if we will only look and see them. The harvest is white, and there are job openings for laborers. The harvest is not limited to the millions crowding the street on Broadway. God is preparing His harvest. He may be doing some of His most intensive digging and dunging right now -- off Broadway!