The Narrow Way

Kierkegaard speaks to my deepest self when he says:

The simple man who humbly confesses himself to be a sinner–himself personally (the individual)–does not at all need to become aware of all the difficulties which emerge when one is neither simple nor humble. But when this is lacking, this humble consciousness of being personally a sinner (the individual)–yea, if such a one possessed all human wisdom and shrewdness along with all human talents, it would profit him little. Christianity shall in a degree corresponding to his superiority erect itself against him and transform itself into madness and terror, until he learns either to give up Christianity, or else by the help of what is very far remote from scientific propaedeutic, apologetic, &c., that is, by the help of the torments of a contrite heart (just in proportion to his need of it) learns to enter by the narrow way, through the consciousness of sin, into Christianity.

A camel passing through the eye of the needle, indeed! It is so clear–am I not rich in every imaginable way?

Christ offended the rich young ruler when he told him to sell all his possessions… Kierkegaard’s point is that it was very natural and reasonable for him to be offended while the disciples were not when Christ called them.

Assuming I am even able to recognize the offense in my case (which is a point in favor of the rich young ruler–he knew what Christ meant for him), what will I do? Will it be the offense that moves me (“Go, sell all your possessions”) and sends me away, as it did the young ruler? Or will it be the invitation (“…and come follow me.”) that moves me and draws me in? It seems that being a Christian just is getting over the offense somehow, having faith in spite of it–and the richer/wiser we are, the more easily we are offended, therefore the harder it is to have faith.

For me, I hope it is the invitation I ultimately embrace, in spite of the offense. But I am realizing I cannot take this process for granted, neither its outcome!

Here I am, beginning finally to uncover my weakness, to see that I am truly weak; I am in awe of it!

By Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan worked as a programmer in tech startups for several decades, but is also passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits and academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively, and is working on another in theology. An American-Canadian, he lives in Vancouver, BC and has way too many hobbies.

3 replies on “The Narrow Way”

Reminds me of George MacDonald’s quote, “It is the clever people who are the ruin of everything!” It also gives me a better picture of what Christ meant when he said the harvest is ready but the workers are few. My lack of faith paralyzes me, and I fear makes me unfit for service. How can I convince others of His truth and their need to confess themselves as sinners when I myself seem unsure of that truth and act like the rich young ruler? May we be granted the faith to overcome the offense, accept the invitation, and become better able to get about spreading joy, the “serious business of heaven”!

This is sort of a tangent, but I grew up reading George MacDonald’s fables, and some of his stories gave me the most enduring images and analogies of faith that I have. Like the ring and the thread in The Princess and the Goblins, and the cloak and the cottage in The Wise Woman.

Sometime simple stories and parables reach us in that place where we are still small and afraid of the world. Where shrewdness would analyze and deconstruct, a child’s story can brush past and strengthen faith.

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