Glad to have my good colleague, friend, poet and brother in arms guest posting this week. He blogs here – http://truthisanarrow.blogspot.co.uk/. Enjoy.
Imagine the widest gate you can think of. Got it? How far apart are the posts? Now imagine a gate even wider than that, so wide that you could not see either of its posts. With a gate so wide it would be entirely possible to pass through it without even knowing you were doing so. Okay. Hold that thought.
I am a frequent user of facebook, it’s fair to say, and when I was asked to write a guest blog for this page (Thank you Cristi) I was involved in an online discussion around the following verses that a friend of mine had just posted. I felt almost immediately that this is what I should blog about.
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. (Matthew 7:13-14)
During the discussion I came to a point of understanding. We often want our words to have a mass appeal, to see hundreds flock into our churches, but Jesus doesn’t seem to see it like that. You will remember that on the day of Pentecost, and early on in Acts, that it is the Lord who added to their number, daily. What were they doing? They were getting on with the business of being the church. Sharing, serving, breaking bread and being devoted to teaching and learning. But it is God who gives the increase. I think Jesus has little time for the mass appeal. Get it right and the rest will follow.
If you look a bit further along, at the story of the rich young ruler, in Chapter 19 (The young man who goes away sad because he doesn’t want to give his wealth away) , you will not see a Jesus that clamours for the favour of his hearers, or one who seeks to coerce others to belief through persuasive words. Actually you won’t see that kind of Jesus anywhere in the gospels. If anything Jesus seems to seek to put people off. It seems to me like his call is ‘How much do you want this?’ He doesn’t accept the lowest common denominator, which is a loose adherence to Christian beliefs and a willingness to show up on a Sunday.
When I was very young my Mother went to pick up the new family car one day. My father had recently got a promotion and this was the first brand new car that they had ever bought, straight out of the show room. Whilst my Dad was at work the call came through that the Vauxhall Victor was ready for collection, a little earlier than expected. My Mum was so excited; bless her, that she had the bright idea of putting the car in the Garage so my father wouldn’t see it when he returned. She would then be able to give him a surprise. She did that alright. You see the Victor was a rather wide American style car (I’m told) and the Garage door was a rather narrow English style Garage door. She had left the door open on leaving the house so she could drive it straight in on her return, which she duly did. The car, with excruciating predictability became a bit stuck in the entrance.
And the entrance requirement is high. The gate to the kingdom is narrow. It’s a squeeze. There is only room for you. Possessions, ego, emotional baggage all have to come off so we can pass through. We may charge in because what we see beyond is so good but we may well get stuck in that entrance.
I think many of us can spend our whole lives stuck in that entrance. The narrow way is hard.
When out walking on my own once, on holiday, I came across a one of those kissing gates. As I approached, I could see there was something there and, as I got nearer, I saw it was a sheep. I thought to myself that it would just run off when it saw me coming. But it did not move. This sheep’s running days were well and truly over. To my alarm and disgust I saw that it was dead. I wondered what could have caused its death. Then I saw that its long curling horns had become entangled in the framework of the gate. It must have lain down for a little rest and was unable to ever get up again. It died there of dehydration.
And I thought about what a picture that was, that we become settled and comfortable in this narrow gateway but don’t go through, in effect dying there. Jesus told us to count the cost. I, for one, do not want to become stuck, or held back from pressing on to take hold of what Jesus took hold of me for.
And, if we become stuck in the gateway, as that sheep did to me, we can cause blockages preventing others from going through themselves.
And the narrow gates pattern is one for our whole Christian life, not just the beginning. I think we always need to be looking for the narrow way. The thing that personally alarms me most about Jesus’ parable, are the words ‘only a few find it’. I think we need to be at least looking.
The broad road is the default setting, being swept along with the crowd, not questioning anything. And millions will just shrug and say to you ‘gate, what gate?’ I don’t remember choosing any broad road’. But they are on it, and it leads to destruction.
Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.~John 10:9
It leads to Life
So where, oh where, is the encouragement in all these bleak reflections? Well here’s the thing. Wherever you make one of those Narrow gate choices it leads to LIFE. Just like the choice you made in the first place to give your life to Christ. It bought such life, such clean and pure joy, such purpose, such worth and such love. All things you couldn’t begin to see from the other side of the gate, when you were dead in your sins. Abundant life. And there is more yet to come. Things which we haven’t perceived but that are waiting for us when we find that narrow way. Don’t settle for anything less.