June 4, 2014
Matthew 7:15-20 (in context)
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
CONSIDER THIS. . .
Previously on the Daily Text, I began making the case that the middle way is the wrong way. Jesus does not offer a “middle” way. He points out to us only two ways: a narrow way and a broad way. The broad way is the way of compromise which is just another way of creating a reasonable approach to depart from the narrow way and embrace a middle way. The narrow way is unapologetically articulated in THE SERMON itself. The middle way is little more than the broad way in disguise.
- The middle way offers a license to broaden the narrow way in the name of being more loving. The narrow way is actually willing to be completely marginalized and endure public execution as an act of love.
- The middle way has an uncanny ability to appear insanely reasonable and yet be void of solid reasoning. The narrow way seeks to humbly stand on truth as its only reason.
- The middle way is the voice of Aristotle, the philosopher. The narrow way is the voice of Jesus, THE PROPHET.
- The middle way is the ironic ethic of Empire. (see ancient Rome). The narrow way is the surprising ethos of the Kingdom. (see first century church).
- The middle way tends to deduce its reasoning from the basis of human experience in order to bully tradition into departing from truth. The narrow way reasons that truth is the voice of love.
- The middle way will readily compromise with sin in the interest of human frailty. The narrow way handles human frailty with truth and grace.
- The middle way lives in the fear of other people. The narrow way thrives in the appropriate fear of God.
- The wisdom of the middle way is built on an attempt to please everyone. The wisdom of the narrow way grows from the love of God AND Neighbor.
Note: By “Middle Way” I do not mean to refer to the 16th century wranglings between Anglicanism, the Reformation and Roman Catholicism. I am talking here about the middle way as being a third option between the “narrow path” and the “broad path.” The fatal presupposition of much middle way thinking is that grace and truth are on the opposite ends of a continuum and that our task is to find some compromise in the tension between them. In Jesus way of thinking grace and truth are one thing. Grace and Truth can no more be separated from one another than can Jesus humanity and divinity.
John Wesley pulled no punches in his sermon addressing this text. Here’s a snippet. Be warned: Explicit Lyrics ahead.
If it be asked, “Why, who ever did teach this, or who does teach it, as the way to heaven?” I answer, “Ten thousand wise and honorable men; even all those, of whatever denomination, who encourage the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creature, the man who suffers no reproach for righteousness’ sake, to imagine he is in the way to heaven.” These are false prophets in the highest sense of the word. These are traitors both to God and man. These are no other than the first-born of Satan; the eldest sons of Apollyon, the Destroyer. These are far above the rank of ordinary cut- throats; for they murder the souls of men. They are continually peopling the realms of night; and whenever they follow the poor souls whom they have destroyed, “hell shall be moved from beneath to meet them at their coming!” p236.
What I think Wesley is saying and what I am trying to say comes down to this:
The middle way is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
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