Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
Proverbs 4:25-27 KJV
Allow me to rephrase these three verses:
Watch where you’re going, think about the path you’re taking, and keep going without swerving!
It is interesting to consider the respect we as a world have for people who start businesses, movements, or groups or who pursue a cause despite opposition with determination, conviction, and unswerving loyalty, with boundaries and rules that protect their cause.
It is interesting in that, at least in the Western world, those same qualities are frowned upon when our society looks at Christian devotion, saying Christian’s are too “narrow minded”.
But is it bad to be narrow minded?
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Matthew 7:13-14 ESV
If we claim to follow the living the God who has redeemed His people, should we not follow what He has revealed to us in His Word? Should we not regularly watch where we are going, how we are living, and live within boundaries that would “remove … evil”?
Should we not be “narrow minded” by keeping our minds on the narrow gate, who is Jesus? (John 10)
He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. (NLT)
Following the Rules
Few of us enjoy being criticized, told off, corrected or reproved. What is important, however, is the manner in which we react when faced with criticism or reproof. Take the Pharisees, for instance. These were a group of people who wrote the book on criticism. They had so many rules, you would have thought that they would have walked around heads hung in shame, given the impossibility of compliance. But they didn’t. They walked around heads held high, proud in the fact that they were rule keepers, not rule breakers. And in their pride they criticized everyone who did not reach their high standards of perfection.
What the Pharisees considered perfection was a falsehood, a lie. Jesus was an exposer of lies. When He came to the attention of the Pharisees they invested heavily in using their laws and rules to bring Him down. But they failed miserably because their criticism had no validity. And while the Pharisees were experts at dishing out criticism, they were unable to accept being under the spotlight and told that they were wrong.
You could argue that it is simpler to live without rules. That is what infuriated the Pharisees about Jesus. He didn’t just break the rules, He lived as if there were no rules. The problem was that they had become blind to reality through their obsession with a legalistic approach for the one thing that could have brought them freedom, and life. God didn’t send Jesus to earth to write a new book of rules, but to show God’s true character to humanity. Jesus came because humanity had it wrong and has still got it wrong. God does not sit up in heaven criticizing us, but loving us. And if we can truly surrender to that Love then we will find freedom from criticism, and freedom from criticizing.
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:10-13 NLT)