Two Different Ways
“There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between
the two Ways.”
These words come from the Didache, or the Teaching of the Twelve Disciples. This is a first century writing summarizing the basic teachings and catechism of the early Christian Church. It is interesting and challenging to see how it clearly delineates the two different paths we can choose to walk. One leads to life. The other leads to death. Such a stark contrast should really make each of us reflect on which path we are walking. We all want to believe we are walking on the path of life, yet our actions and the choices we make in life may reveal a different reality. Let’s take care to honestly look at our own lives and to see if we are on the path that leads to life.
The Didache describes the path of life as follows:.
The way of life is this: First, you shall love the Lord God who made you. Secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. And whatever you don’t want others to do to you, don’t do to others.
The way of life is a path that leads us to walk as Jesus Christ walked. He showed us perfect love for God and neighbor. The way of life is a path where God is always present and close to us in our daily life. We think of Him at every moment, and try to please Him. We are on a path where we do not separate our love for God and our love for others. Divine love knows no distinction between God and our fellow human being. If we hate another, we are choosing to hate God. When we love the other, we are growing in our love for God.
And such love is seen clearly in our actions, not simply our words. The Didache looks at the Golden Rule from a negative perspective - “DON’T treat others the way you don’t want to be treated.” Jesus, however, turned the Golden Rule in a positive light - “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” When we put the Golden Rule in a positive way, it doesn’t allow us to stay indifferent. Sometimes inaction is just as great a sin as a sinful action. Divine love compels us to reach out to others, to look for ways to help, to never be content when we are doing nothing wrong, but to look for ways to constantly offer acts of love to others.
The way of life is this: Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, fasting for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the ungodly do the same? But, for your part, love those that hate you, and then you will have no enemy.
The way of life allows no room for hatred. In fact, if we walk the path of life, we will constantly be praying for those who we don’t like, asking for God’s blessing to come upon them, and even taking the time to fast for their sake. Our goal is to love others, regardless of whether they love us back. Christian love does not depend on what others do to us. God’s love should fill our hearts, and the overflow of His love should come out in our actions to others, including towards those we suppose to be our enemies. We want to reach the point where we never look at another as an enemy!
The way of life is this: Abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts.
Our society has bombarded us with so many images, and filled our minds with such depravity, that many of us - especially among our youth - don’t even realize how this impurity has pervaded our thoughts and words, and corrupted our souls. Too many will ridicule as “prudes” those who want to stay chaste and pure. Our society allows and even embraces pornography, instead of exposing it as an evil that denigrates the opposite sex, and distorts our minds with impure images and ideas. The way of life, however, is for those who treat their bodies, and the bodies of others, as temples of the Holy Spirit; for those who respect virginity as a precious gift, and even for those who are married, to treat their spousal relations in a holy manner. Imagine, our bodies are “temples” dedicated to God, and as the Apostle Paul teaches us, our minds are to focus on “whatever is true, what is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
But the way of death is this: full of cursing, murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, witchcrafts, charms, robberies, false witness, hypocrisies, a double heart, fraud, pride, malice, stubbornness, covetousness, foul speech, jealousy, impudence, haughtiness, boastfulness…
Read through that list again, and think about how often we fall prey to our pride, our hypocrisy, our jealousy, our foul speech. Too often we justify our wrong actions and words, instead of understanding that our carelessness may lead us down the path of death!
The way of death is this: spending wakeful nights not for good but for wickedness, from whom meekness and patience is far, lovers of vanity, unmerciful to the poor, murderers of children, corrupters of God's creatures, turning away the needy, oppressing the distressed, advocates of the rich, unjust to the poor.
Let each of us take care to reflect on our path in life. Is it one that leads to life, or death? A dear friend of mine, Dr. Peter Gilbert, wrote a song based on the beginning verses of the Didache. I will conclude with part of his song:
There are two ways my soul, my soul.
And they are not the same. One leads to
everlasting life. One leads to dust and shame. One leads to dust and shame.
So bless the Lord, my soul, my soul.
And bless His holy name. And leave the path that leads to dust, and walk the righteous way. And walk the righteous way.
May we all strive - with all our heart, soul, and strength - to walk every day the way that leads to life, the authentic and everlasting life in Jesus Christ!
With love in Christ,