Walking the Line
“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
Broad is the road to destruction, narrow that which leads to life. But unlike the memorable poem “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, these two roads do not run in different directions. They seem, in fact, to be parallel, one over the other, akin to the path of a miniature golf course: all players start at the same “tee”, but the ball must be struck into the center target – a little to the left or to the right and the ball finds itself in a more difficult area.
And so, we find ourselves walking, running – most of us stumbling – along the same path. But in the center of this broad path is a narrow, paved lane. This is the slow lane, of course, but it is lined with the things of Heaven, and it is within this narrow part that Jesus walks with us. It is a very bright lane, and most seem to avoid it, putting on their sunglasses (or blindfolds) and falling to the outer edges of the road where it is darker.
But everyone and everything beyond the edges of this lane beckon us and reach out to us, inviting and encouraging us to join them in the darkness. We fall prey to the thinking that what is hidden in the darkness is better than what we can see in the light. And so, occasionally we abandon the lighted path and head off into the darkness, trying not to let go of Jesus’ hand in the process.
But those hidden things seem just out of reach, and to possess them or enjoy fellowship with them, we have to let go of His hand. So here we are, walking in the light, standing in the presence of God, and yet we seek that which He has set just out of our reach.
Now sometimes we’ll just flat out let go of Jesus’ hand, and journey out into the darkness. We are not afraid to do so, because we find very old and familiar things there. Old ways of thinking, behavior, friends, and pleasure. We’re not alone in the dark, there are plenty of people there doing those same things to welcome us, beckoning us to stay. And even though we know we shouldn’t be there at all, we say, “I can only stay for a bit, and then I have to get back.”
And each time we do this, we get more comfortable in the darkness. We become prideful and confident that we can stay a little bit longer each time, because either God can’t see us at all, or we know He’ll take us back when we’re done messing around. This is why it’s so imperative that we are quick to “confess our sins” because “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) The quicker we return to the narrow path and proximity of Jesus, the sooner we can recover and gain strength.
But more frequent are the times where we drift to the outer edges of that narrow footpath. We stretch out our arms and strain our eyes, constantly searching through the darkness, looking to see how those “old” things are doing, and wondering what it would be like to visit them. We miss the comfort of our old familiar lives – like the Israelites wandering in the desert, longing to return to slavery in Egypt – because we struggle to comprehend the goodness of the place God has already brought us to and leading us toward.
And what’s worse? The one who stumbles or the one who causes another to stumble?
“If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6
Are we so prideful and confident in our own faith that we exhibit character traits that discourage others? Do others see God in us? Are we so cavalier in our attitude towards Christ that we feel we can behave like those apart from Him? If we engage in sinful behavior with other believers, does it make it okay?
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. – Ephesians 5:1-4
Through it all, we find that we must keep things in check. It’s rather easy to stay in your lane when you’re looking forward in traffic. Not so much when you stare out the side window trying to identify the garbage in the gutter. We need to stay close to the center of the narrow road, stay focused on Jesus, and pay attention.
And hopefully, along the way, some of those folks in the outskirts will see us and find their way home too.