Staying on the straight and narrow may seem like walking a tight rope until we realize He is carrying us.  When we accept Jesus into our hearts, He begins to carry us.  This Bible study lesson using a clothesline and two chairs is an easy way to illustrate the messages given on the Sermon on the Mount.

Bible Study Lesson: How a Clothesline can help us Understand the Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:20-39, Matthew 7:13, Romans 3:23

Piece of clothesline twelve feet long. Two chairs.

Tie the clothesline around the feet of two chairs. Pull the line tight so that it stands about three or four inches above the ground. Have two children sit one on each chair facing each other.

Jesus said things in his famous Sermon on the Mount that are hard to understand. Some people heard the things He said and thought, “Gee. How can I get into the Kingdom of Heaven if I have to do all the stuff He said?”

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus said, For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. To the religious order of His day, these people were considered most religious.

In verse 21 He says, “It was said to the people long ago, “˜You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. And anyone who says, “˜You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In verses 38 and 39, Jesus says, If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

He ends chapter 5 saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Can we understand why people can get frustrated and say, “There’s no way to be that perfect. The whole concept of failure as a Christian is really scary”?

In Matthew 7:13, Jesus sounds almost as rigid, but He provides clues here to how salvation is made doable.  He says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Enter through the narrow gate. How do we find it and what do we do to walk the way Jesus wants us to?  It would feel almost like walking a tight rope. Who wants to try to walk on our clothesline-tightrope without stepping off?

Have the two students sitting in the chairs brace themselves and push back far so the rope is taught. Let students try to walk on it. Explain that the rope will bend enough that they can use some of the floor to steady themselves, but they ought to walk across trying not to get their heels or toes off on either foot.

The idea is to “stay on the straight and narrow.” Don’t let your foot hit the floor without both your heel and toe touching the rope.

You may have a gymnast or extremely balanced student who can actually get to the other end. If that appears to be the case, when she is ¾ there, try taking hold of the rope behind her and wiggling it and saying this:

And of course there are those “stormy” times in our lives when things begin to go wrong. The wind kicks up – trials set in – and we have to stay on even during those times, according to Jesus.

When everyone has tried:

Jesus said, “Be ye perfect.” That was the way to stay on the straight and narrow. Was Jesus lying? No. If students get side tracked on watering this down, keep returning to the black white; he said it very plainly, and He’s either telling the truth or he’s lying.

There is only one way we know of to stay on “the straight and narrow.” It has to do with our relationship with Jesus – not with our actions.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned; all fall short of the glory of God.” That’s why Jesus came. That’s why he lived and that’s why he died – so that He could keep us on the straight and narrow.

Pretend for a moment I’m Jesus.

Pick the smallest child in the room so you don’t hurt your back. Put his or her arm around your neck and lift him so his weight is on you and his feet barely touch the ground. Walk along beside the rope so his feet can swipe it, and it doesn’t really matter if he misses or hits.

When we accept Jesus into our hearts, He begins to carry us. He takes control of our lives so we have hope, vision, understanding, a bit of clarity, safety, security, love for others, and when we don’t get it perfect – He did. And he is carrying us.

Put the student down.

That, brothers and sisters, is how to be perfect. It’s the only way on planet earth.

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