Just What Do You Mean … The Narrow Gate?
By Greg Albrecht—
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
This passage is often preached from the perspective of how hard it is to obey God and keep his laws—how hard it is to “make the grade” to get into heaven—how relatively few souls will be counted worthy of heaven while the broad majority will end up in hell.
Matthew 7:13-14 is one of those passages that is regularly preached to mean something altogether different than the meaning that God intends. In fact, it may make my list of the top 25 most misunderstood and often misapplied passages in the entire Bible.
The passage begins with Jesus’ admonition to “enter through the narrow gate.” As many preachers and students of the Bible read these words, it seems to me that they take their own feelings about what constitutes a difficult and narrow gate (and a wide gate and a broad road) and apply them to what Jesus is teaching.
The typical response to this passage goes something like this: “Well, Jesus must be talking about how difficult it is to truly obey commandments and do the right thing. After all,” we conclude (encouraged by religion), “look at the world. Just look at it. All those people just doing whatever they want whenever they want—they’re on the broad road that leads to destruction.”
But within the larger context of this chapter, Jesus is talking about misunderstandings that we have of God—and how we treat (and mistreat) others—while thinking we are doing what God wants.
For example, it is in the context of the entire chapter that Jesus gives the statements in verses 21-23: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven….”
What really is the hardest thing for any human to do? To keep rules and regulations? To walk a “straight and narrow” religious walk? Or is the hardest thing for any human to truly trust in God? I believe it is easier to try to do “all the right things” (and have all of our performance ducks lined up) than it is to truly accept God’s grace.
Accepting God’s grace means that we surrender any and all attempts to control our life, and put our complete and total faith and trust in God’s hands. Accepting God’s grace means giving up any and all religious attempts to manipulate God, attempting to get him to do what we want him to do. That, in my book, is far more difficult than trying to tow some religious line.
I believe the narrow gate is represented by those who truly do accept Jesus—those who embrace grace without reservation. I believe the broad road (remember that Jesus was talking in this chapter about those who were essentially trying to do the “right” things; not blatantly immoral and libertine folks) is about those are hurtling down a religious freeway, blissfully unaware that the only relationship they truly know and understand is with Christ-less religion, not with God.