When I first committed my life to Christ forty years ago, my friends were shocked at my transformation. They found it hard to believe that I could live without all of the pleasurable activities that we pursued together. “How can you give up all the fun?” was a frequent question. The answer of course was quite simple: I had found true joy for the first time in my life – a deep and gratifying source of life that I didn’t need to drink, smoke, or manipulate to acquire. The exponential gain in my life reduced my former state to a negligible attraction.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
This pattern of the narrow gate leading to life, filled with vision and the restraint needed to facilitate its fulfillment, was modeled by Christ. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor.8:9) The human birth canal is pretty tight quarters for passage; thankfully it is designed for elasticity and the light at the end of the tunnel is a gaping four inches. Jesus literally chose the narrow gate didn’t he?
Aside from the physical process there was the dimension of leaving the realms of glory to enter the broken limitations of humanity. Jesus went from omnipresence to: being in one place at a time, having to walk to get there, and getting tired to boot. Perhaps the angels wondered, as my old party friends did, “You’re giving up all this, for that?” In this case however, they had a point.
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (First Timothy 6:10) Loving anything above God: is the root of all sorts of evil, weakens our faith, and eventually leads to sorrow.
Jesus said that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24) He used the camel because it was the largest animal regularly seen in Israel. Remember the context of this verse: Jesus had invited a man to follow him, with the promise of treasure in heaven. But the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” We pierce ourselves with many griefs when we choose the lesser treasures of the wide road.
When I am navigating a passageway of growth I sometimes think of it as “eye of the needle” change. “I don’t see how we are going to do this Lord”, I gasp. The disciples asked a similar question: “Who then can be saved?” (19:25) Jesus replies: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (19:26)
The “wide gate” as the Bible describes it, has something for everyone. The greatest danger is in the exclusion of God or in modifying the Gospel message to make it palatable at the expense of being non-transformative. The “narrow gate” is pure and cleansing, and I might add, wonderfully rich in transition.
The narrow way is truly the most expansive.