“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, NIV)
Which group of words do you find more attractive? (a) “Broad / open / inclusive / generous”, or (b) “Narrow / restricted / tight”? I know which I do!
All the more surprising, then, when the Lord Jesus, towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount, pleads with us to enter through the narrow gate.
As often in His teaching, He speaks of just two ways to live: this time, pictured as two roads. The first is broad and very popular, with a wide gate to go through to get onto it. The second is narrow, with only a small gate.
He is calling for a trusting, obedient response to Him as Saviour and Lord. The way of life He calls us to is counter-cultural in all sorts of ways; it may even lead to our being persecuted (5:10). Entry comes only as we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Saviour. That is a narrow road, and few find it. His followers will always be in the minority.
If we’re honest, we find this difficult. We don’t want to be on a different route to everyone else, and we long for the right road to have more people on it. How, then, are we to respond?
One approach is to try to widen the road. The words I’ve used above - ‘inclusive’, ‘open’ and the like - are used a lot in current chat around churches. Now, of course, we should take care to do nothing (e.g. in our cultural practices) which makes the gospel inaccessible. But many would go further, and want to drop the less-popular aspects of New Testament teaching. There exist - particularly in the older denominations in the UK - a variety of road-widening schemes.
However, there is no sign here that the gate-posts or road are ours to widen. Indeed, the great danger is that we may make people think they’re on the right road when they are in fact on the wrong one.
Rather, Jesus’ approach is to urge us all, strongly, to enter through the narrow gate. Come in! There is an urgency about his appeal, with the command right at the beginning of the sentence. In this version, we humbly heed His warning about the width of the two roads, rather than proudly trying to change that.
Churches need to hold their nerve and keep on preaching the whole of Christ’s teaching, urging everyone to enter by the narrow gate.
It could hardly be more important to be sure we’re on the right road. The broad one, He tells us, leads to destruction. But the narrow one leads to life.
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