God Always Makes More Room
I have been watching a lot of the election coverage lately---doing my best to listen and learn, and also doing my best to practice forbearance and grace, which are both hard to come by when one is watching election coverage.
What has been striking to me is the way that so many of the people speaking during the respective party conventions have missed opportunities to cast a bigger, more expansive and hopeful vision for the future.
And far too many people who say they follow Jesus buy into the narrower visions that are presented, a small way of seeing the future---a future that offers security, prosperity and salvation for a very small group of people, while leaving everyone else out.
I have so many memories of moments from my youth when I listened to preachers and youth leaders pound their pulpits as they read from Matthew 7:13:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."
Their point was that in the end only a few people were going to be saved... only a few people were granted abundant life... only a few people who looked, acted and believed like we did.
And the culmination of those sermons was always the same: unless you wanted to spend all of eternity doing laps in the Lake of Fire, you definitely better be with the few, and not the many.
But when you do a close reading of that verse in context, what Jesus is talking about is that it's radical, sacrificial, selfless love that will save the world.
In order to go through the narrow gate you have to let go of everything you thought you needed to be comfortable, secure and safe. The broad road demands little from you, except blindness to the suffering and needs of the world around you.
It's easier to look away from all of that suffering, though. It's also easier to define your beliefs, your faith, even your life in narrow terms--to claim with certainty who you aren't, even if you have no real clue who you are.
Fr. Richard Rohr puts it like this:
The ego seems to strengthen itself by constriction, by being against things and it feels loss or fear when it opens up. "No" always comes easier than "Yes" and a deep conscious "Yes" is the work of freedom and grace.
The broad road was the one the overly-religious, pseudo-pious faith leaders of Jesus' day took on a daily basis. Their view of God was small---their view of grace even smaller.
By contrast, the Good News that Jesus declared is for everyone. Everyone is welcomed to the party. And the party generally starts when we realize that to go through the narrow gate we simply need to let go of our need to be first... right... privileged...
Anything other than that is not the Good News Jesus declared even though it might seem like good news to some people.
So as you listen to the many voices that will be speaking throughout this election season, listen carefully. If the "good news" they are selling isn't good news for everyone, then it's not good news at all.
And if the voices you've listened to from the pulpits you've sat in front of for most of your life are lifting up a version of the Good News that is small, narrow and exclusive, and only for a fortunate few, then it's not good news either.
I read this wonderful quote from speaker and author Bob Goff recently that describes the kind of Good News I'm talking about. He wrote:
There has never been a capacity issue with God. The more who come, the bigger the room gets.