Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. Proverbs 4:14-16
Walk The Line
For a number of years, I served as a Youth Minister. It is a unique job that comes with its own special set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges I faced was the constant question from teenagers, “How far is too far?” Now, this question was asked about everything: physical intimacy, entertainment,
less than reputable study habits cheating, etc. There was a constant fascination with seeing how close to the line a Christian could get without actually falling into sin. “Where are the boundaries?” was the question – because the truth was, the students often wanted to hug those boundaries as closely as they could, usually pushing past them.
Now, before we wag a self-righteous finger at the teens of the nation, we need to examine ourselves. How often do we walk the line, so to speak? How often to we flirt with the dangerous gray area between sin and wisdom? The Scripture says a great deal about how we should walk in this life.
The Narrow, Straight Way
Jesus declared, “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). The prophet Isaiah made a similar statement, “The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous” (Isaiah 26:7).
The call for the believer is to walk upon a straight and narrow path. This path is hard and one that requires constant, grace-filled perseverance. Now, this isn’t to say that there is no “freedom” on this path. In fact, it is on this path that true freedom is experienced – the freedom to do and be what we ought to be. If we are called to be conformed to the image of Jesus, then it will happen by God’s grace on this path of life. So, what are some of the characteristics of this path?
The Biblical Road Signs of the Straight and Narrow Path
First, the path of life is marked by heeding to wisdom. Solomon wrote, “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me (wisdom) will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster” (Proverbs 1:32-33). Wisdom is seldom something found within, but comes from without. There is no space for pride in our own ability and comprehension where true wisdom is involved. We are not to be “wise in our own eyes” (Proverbs 26:12), but rather we are to seek wisdom outside of ourselves, namely from God and godly counselors. “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17).
Second, the path of life is marked by integrity. “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his way crooked is found out” (Proverbs 10:9). I once heard integrity defined as doing the right thing, even if no one would ever know it. Truth, beauty, and goodness should be a normal mark of the Christian’s life. If the world cannot trust believers to keep our word, then how can the world trust the Jesus upon whom we have believed?
Third, the path of life is marked by community. We do not travel this road alone. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). The church is called a family, a body, a building (of connected pieces). We are a flock, a community, a household. Solitude for extended periods is not the path of life. That is why it is so important to be held accountable by a particular group of people. Solomon continues, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
Finally, the path of life is marked by a firm foundation. There is a truth to be embraced, and that truth is embodied in the person of Jesus. We are called to a gospel, to a Word, to a fellowship, to a Spirit. We are not called to endless speculations and opinions. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only expresses his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2). Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit–just as we are called to one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). There is a unity of faith and practice among Christians. Now, unity does not mean uniformity. Some things may appear quite different from one context to the next. But the essence is the same. Jesus Christ, Incarnate, crucified, buried, raised. The power of the gospel by the Spirit to transform lives. The sufficiency of the Word. These are firm and sure – and these mark the path of life.
So, how are we walking? Are we hugging the line? Are we pressing the boundaries? Are we trying to walk some on a path of life and some on a path of death? Let us each walk in the way of wisdom, integrity, in community, with the firm foundation of Jesus and the gospel under our feet.