One of Jesus’ more intriguing images is that of the gate, the entranceway into his Father’s Kingdom. On the one hand he refers to the many coming through it — people from the North, South, East and West. Then on the other, he declares that passageway to be narrow: not everyone will get through, especially those who speak his Word but don’t act on it.
In our own times, what kinds of attitudes and especially behaviors can help open that gate? Or the reverse, what kinds of actions might allow God’s Kingdom to flow more freely through it into our world
One especially relevant pursuit might be characterized as bridge-building. And that’s because the splits between opposing sides today have become so much more pronounced. In such a division-ridden society — left/right, liberal/conservative, CNN/Fox News — what might a disciple of Jesus do to soften these standoffs? To take another angle, how might we build up a center space within which feuding parties could begin to communicate with each other?
A good example of this was given two centuries ago by the French layman, Frederick Ozanam, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In his time, the gap between the rich and the poor was vast, particularly in the cities. In a number of ways by both word and action, he worked to bring each into more sympathetic appreciation of the other. The well-off and the destitute knew next to nothing about the worlds of their opposites. His idea? Hold out a hand out to each each side and so create a middle ground within which mutual understanding could begin to grow. Through such activities, his Vincent de Paul Society sought not just to help the poor but further to shorten the cultural distance between them and the privileged.
With this strategy of helping opposed groups understand each other, he was taking a very practical step toward lubricating the hinges of that narrow gate. It was a plan to connect sides, a person-to-person approach aimed to build unity and mutual appreciation. It was one very concrete way to unblock that gate so as to allow God’s Reign fuller entrance into that time and place.
In the polarized society of our own Century, how might we do something similar? What are ways by which I might decrease the tension in these standoffs, enable opposing sides to listen more understandingly to each other?
Jesus presents this gate through which all of us must pass. Entrance depends in large part on the practical steps we take to build the kind of unity, accord and cooperation that reflects his Father’s world. How could a disciple help build such bridges? What steps might I take to unclog communication between the sides? In what imaginative ways could I grasp the hands of each and be a channel through which each can listen to the hopes and fears of the other?
Polarization, fiercely opposing camps? Settling for this state of affairs, and not making efforts to help people communicate across its divides, impedes Jesus’ Kingdom. Enabling smoother and less strident communication across those gaps, in whatever ways possible, would allow us all to pass easier through those narrow, yet always inviting, entrances into God’s world.