“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. 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)
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of two ways of living. This was a common way of talking about life in Biblical times. We find similar references throughout Scripture. One of the most famous is Psalm 1 which describes the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. We are presented with two paths to follow, and we must choose one.
It is vital that we hear Jesus’ words in their context. If we want to know what is the narrow way, then we must begin by reading Matthew 5-7. The narrow way is described in the Sermon on the Mount. It is a way of living that is contrary to how many others choose to live. We commit to controlling our anger, turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving our enemies, giving, fasting, praying, living simply, and more.
When the two ways are presented in passages like Psalm 1, the answer seems obvious. Will you choose the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked? Will you choose right or wrong? Will you choose good or evil? Some may even wonder why questions like these have to be posed at all. We flock to see movies where good triumphs over evil. We root for our heroes to make the right choice. We know what we should choose, but we don’t always do it. Why? Jesus answers this question in Matthew 7:13-14. The right way is difficult. It is committing to living as Jesus lived. If we choose the other way, we don’t have to do anything at all. We can sit on the couch all day, eating potato chips, while binge-watching Netflix. The way of the wicked requires nothing of us.
Christians can easily be deceived into focusing all their attention on the free gift of salvation while ignoring the cost of discipleship. Salvation is a gift. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us, but for what purpose are we saved? We are not saved so we can go on living as we did before we found Christ. We are saved so that we can become like Christ. If we want to remain the broken person we were before we became a Christian, then all we have to do is nothing, but if we want to become like Jesus, then we must follow the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and imitate the ways of Christ. Living like Jesus is challenging. Most things that are worth doing are, but it is much better than the alternative. Doing nothing is the broad and easy road right now, but if this is the path we choose, then in twenty or thirty years, we will wake up and be filled with regret. Our life will be a mess, and we will lament that we did not make better choices earlier in life.
Jesus is upfront about what it takes to be a disciple. He does not sugarcoat it. At the end of his most famous teaching, he makes it as plain as possible. There are two paths. There is a broad and easy path that requires nothing of us, and there is a narrow and difficult path that is challenging. What kind of life do you want for yourself? If you want to be a better person, then that is going to require work. If you want to be like Jesus, then you are going to have to discipline yourself. Choosing what is good and right requires something from us. It costs us something, just as it cost Jesus something. It is the best life, but it does not come easy.