When I was growing up in the church I came away with the impression that the narrow way was the compilation of our habits, our holiness, the choices we made and the things we did and didn’t do.
If we were careful enough then we had found the narrow way.
If we were holy enough we had found the narrow way.
You get the picture. The focus was on actions. Where we went and what we did. Who we hung out with and the things we exposed ourselves to.
Always with a focus on the negative. We were to be taking things out of our life. Rarely was there ever any sense of how to be in the world. We were defined by what wasn’t, not what was.
I’m now well into my forties and thank the good Lord above have come to a little more sense. And while it isn’t a bad thing to remove bad things from our lives I have come to see that the Kingdom of God is about so very much more than this.
The Kingdom of God is about where we dare to go, whom we love enough to hang out with, it is about our letting go of ego that would make nice, play pretty, and cover up.
The Kingdom of God is certainly NOT about playing it safe.
How big is our God anyway?
And so too, this concept of the narrow way has taken on new understanding. But before I go any further lets take a look at the original text.
Follow this to read all of Matthew 7 – then come back.
The exact verse about the narrow way is found almost smack dab in the middle of this chapter.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14
Now to understand a sentence one must look at the paragraphs and the full context surrounding it.
Let’s first pull out the key words in these two verses. I see:
- narrow gate
- a wide gate is easy and = destruction
- narrow gate is hard and = life
- few find it
Notice that, in these particular verses, we do not have any clue of what exactly this narrow gate is. To determine this we must look at the rest of the chapter and even beyond that at the manner and spirit of Christ (the speaker here) himself.
In the entire chapter 7 of Matthew we find these key points:
- do not judge
- be responsible for yourself first and foremost
- ask for the things we need, admit our need
- do to others as we would have others do to us
- we can tell a tree by its fruit, here is the proof of the person
- prophesying and acting in the name of Christ does not mean we are his
- we must build our lives on the wisdom of Christ
- hearing the words of Christ must change our lives or our lives will not stand
So, this list, these are the narrow way.
Think also of the beginning of this Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-9:
- the poor will have the Kingdom of God
- those who mourn will be comforted
- the meek will inherit the earth
- the hungry for righteousness will be satisfied (i.e.: find righteousness)
- the merciful will receive mercy
- the pure in heart will see God
- peacemakers will be called sons of God
These too indicate the narrow way.
Knowing our poverty of spirit (honesty of heart and soul), those who have those with the heart and the courage to mourn (its’ not all fun and game and not all balderdash), the meek among us, those hungry for God, able to walk in mercy, with a pure heart making peace with others – this is the narrow way.
The narrow way is not proving ‘rightness’, condemnation, judgement, critical spirit, jealousy, christian arrogance, paternalism, and its not even things like holiness or purity.
The narrow way is understanding, realizing on a deep level, that we are not able to be holy or pure. We, you and I, are lost without Christ. That the kingdom of God has nothing to do with anyone else. It has everything to do with our own frailty, our own sin, or own slander, our own lostness.
And once we get this, really get it. I mean, allow the love of God down into the deepest darkest pits INSIDE OF US, then and only then do we operate out of a grace and compassion that marks all those touched by the Living God.
Anything less is merely religion and pretence and conjecture.
That is the wide way. The easy way.
Christ calls us to the narrow way. It’s a vastly different product than what many of us ‘christians’ are living today.
God help us.