13 “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. 14 But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.
When we hear this passage, we usually think Jesus’ words are future-oriented: that he’s pointing toward heaven and hell. You know that classic meme, right? “The fact that there’s a highway to hell but only a stairway to heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers.” I’m not sure whether Led Zeppelin or AC/DC drew on the Bible for inspiration, but this is the way a lot of people think.
But, as Jim Forest reminds us in his book, Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the Greatest Commandment, Jesus’ words don’t just describe the future, but the present. If Jesus said, “I am the way” (John 14:6), then, according to 14th-century St. Catherine of Siena, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” In other words, it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey. We experience heaven all along the way to heaven. We can know the peace of heaven here on earth and in our own day-to-day lives when we walk in the narrow way of Christ.
If this is true, then I have to imagine that the reverse is also true: the decision to walk the broad way leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life, to a lack of peace and to an overwhelming sense that this world contains a lot more of hell than heaven. Our pursuit of the mirage we call “success,” our relentless focus on material security, and the whole-hearted embrace of the world’s values most often lead to a place of deep anxiety, frustration, anger, and a sense of meaninglessness. Humans were created for something more, but so many of us are willing to settle for much less.
As Christian author & speaker J. John recently wrote, “The problem with the road to hell is that it never states its destination.” It’s like when you go to a concert at an unfamiliar venue, and because you don’t know the way in, you just follow the crowd assuming they’ll lead you in the right direction. So many of us do this. We select our road by default rather than by choice.
Christ calls us to think carefully about how the way we choose – do we follow Christ, or walk with the crowd? Every day we make choices that lead us in one direction or the other. Every day we move a few more miles down either the wide or the narrow road. It’s up to us.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Do you have a big decision on the horizon? How can you allow your values to speak into that decision? Which choice is more likely to lead you closer to Christ, so that you might experience more of heaven here in this life?
Even if you don’t have a big decision to make today, how do all your little choices about how to treat people tend in one direction or another?
Prayer: Jesus, you call us to follow you on the narrow way. Today, stop us at key moments when we have choices to make – choices about how we treat others and how we live out our values. Remind us that when we walk with you in your way, that we can experience a bit of heaven on earth. Let this thought be our guide when decisions seem difficult. Amen.