Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it.
[With these words Jesus continues to teach about the Law of Moses as the Sermon on the Mount continues. He takes some of the most important topics and explains to his disciples, in specific terms, what it means to be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires” (See Day 23)].
Are you a good driver? It takes a good driver to get through a narrow gate. It takes focus to stay on the road. It takes discipline. Ever notice the similarity between the words “discipline” and “disciple?” Same word root. Yes indeed. You have to exercise a little discipline if you want to be a disciple of Jesus.
Good disciples drive the road of life carefully and consciously in safe cars like Volvos. They pay attention to everything they are doing and they don’t take their eyes off the road. They drive defensively to avoid accidents, and they are courteous to other drivers. They are patient and they keep their emotions under control. They are respectful of speed limits and they obey all the rules.
Others go through life driving off road vehicles like Jeeps. They prize their freedom above all else. They don’t want to be restricted to driving on the road. They want to go wherever they want and they really don’t care about how it affects others. They feel constrained by rules and enjoy the thrill of breaking the law. They are easily distracted and take unnecessary risks.
Unfortunately freedom is not always what it’s cracked up to be. There are a lot of perils and pitfalls out there. I like to watch a show called I Shouldn’t Be Alive. It’s full of people who go off by themselves, do things they shouldn’t do, and suffer the consequences. Here are some episode plot summaries (from Wikipedia):
- In July 2008, Theo Rosmulder, an amateur treasure hunter who got out of heart surgery, wanders off into the Western Australian Outback after he found a gold nugget and got carried away. He must survive 5 days of physical exhaustion and the threat of heart failure without the aid of medication.
- In 1993 a young man on a sightseeing trip through the Mayan ruins wanders away from his tour group. With temperatures rising above 100 degrees and the denseness of the jungle he ends up in a 19 day fight for survival with nothing but his sheer willpower as he tries to find his way out.
- In April 1999 Three British climbers get caught in a snow storm near the summit of Mt. McKinley. After a night in a cave, one climber develops snow blindness and another volunteers to go down to base camp but breaks both his legs in a fall.
- July 2009. An off-road adventure goes terribly wrong when the Bosworths’ jeep rolls, leaving them stranded in the rugged canyons of New Mexico. They face a grueling four-day hike out of the area, and when Lynda becomes too weak to continue Tom is forced to continue on to save his dying wife.
These guys will all tell you. You go off the road, away from the crowd, take a wrong turn and you can end up in …….HELL. Well, maybe not hell but pretty damned close. It’s a dangerous world out there when you’re all alone No one is invincible; why die needlessly?
Jesus says that we need to drive carefully and pay attention to what we’re doing. We need to keep our focus on what’s important – loving God and loving one another. We need the support and safety of our community. Elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says we need to stay away from temptations like anger, legalism, envy, and worry. These things will bring us and everyone around us down.
My friend Ron is a good driver. Ron drove when we went with him and his wife Lynn to a Christian conference in Lexington, KY this summer. It was a pleasure riding with him. But what else what would I expect? Ron is a committed disciple. He is hard working and disciplined. He prays and worships and studies scripture and follows Jesus. He’s conscientious and courteous. He stays focused and does his best to do the right thing. He’s a kind person who tries to stay between the lines, and he has the skills to make it through a narrow gate. He is consequently one of those good drivers on the road of life.
Jesus calls us to be “disciplined disciples.” He wants us to be good drivers who stay on the road and obey the rules for our own safety and the safety of others. He doesn’t want us to end up stuck in the bottom of a ravine somewhere. He doesn’t want us to miss the narrow gate. Although the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, the view from the road is very beautiful, too. If you stay on the road you are much more likely to arrive at your destination happy, safe, energized, and ready for the next adventure.
What does this scripture say to you?