Matthew 7:13-14 (NRSV)
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Discipleship is not an easy road. The Greek word for “disciple” in the New Testament means both a learner and an adherent, that is, one who studies with a teacher for instruction and also imitates the teacher as the ideal model. It is no coincidence that “disciple” and “discipline” come from the same Latin root, for discipleship requires strict and persistent efforts to learn and practice new ways of thinking and interacting with the world.
Through the ages, disciples of Jesus have studied and practiced the ways of God by doing what Jesus said and living as Jesus lived. Jesus warned his disciples to expect opposition from the disciples of the world. They offer appealing alternatives to God’s ways that nevertheless lead to sin, heartache, and destruction. “Look for the narrow gate,” Jesus says, “if you want to live where God lives and reigns.”
When it comes to relationships, it’s easy to spot the broad gate because it will have your picture on it. You will also see instructions for how to put yourself first in every circumstance and how to cleverly point the guilt away from your own actions in every conflict. You will find many people sharing the road with you who will be glad to tell you their bitter stories, who will soothe your wounded pride and urge you to exercise your right to revenge and punishment.
Jesus says, with all that bustle around the broad gate, it’s easy to miss the narrow gate, but you can’t mistake it—it’s the gate with the picture of our Teacher on the cross, speaking the words, “Father, forgive them,” with his last breath. Follow me, Jesus says, through that narrow gate. The way isn’t as appealing as the other road. It may look lonely, even dangerous. You may have to travel some of it on your knees. Disciples of the world may mock or despise you for the changes they see in you but don’t understand.
Don’t be discouraged, Jesus continues. Study my example and practice forgiving one step at a time—speak a kind word instead of a harsh one; let an insult pass without remark; let someone else take the credit you deserve; offer compassion instead of criticism. Keep your eyes on me, and you’ll find that the road you’ve chosen is changing your heart of stone into a heart of flesh—in fact, into a heart like mine.
FATHER, I confess that in the heat of a conflict, I don’t even see the narrow gate. In my wounded pride, I seek the broad avenue and the crowd who justifies my right to angry and vengeful feelings. Teach me the discipline of discipleship. Refocus my gaze to spot your image through the crowd and to choose the gate that leads to life with you.
John 10:9-10; Hebrews 12:7
Why is the gate to life narrow and the road hard?