“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 (NIV)
The Gallery Gallop is a demanding running race held in Miller Beach, Indiana, every May. It is a 5.5 mile competition with more than half of the race taking place along the south shoreline of Lake Michigan. The rest of the race consists of paved streets and huge sand hills that can frustrate even the most avid runners. I have competed in this event for the last seven years. All seven of those years I’ve thought about the narrow path Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. See, at the beginning of the Gallery Gallop, runners make their way along the edge of Lake Michigan and the soft sand found a few feet inland from the gentle waves. The runners are seeking solid ground to run upon; moving too far toward the dunes causes their shoes to sink into the dry sand. If runners move too close to the water, their shoes sink in the wet sand, and when the tide comes in, they find their feet soaked and cold. So everyone who braves this challenging course has no choice but to remain vigilant in their quest for the narrow path that leads to success.
When I began my research for this column I googled “The Narrow Path” and immediately discovered pagans, atheists, and agnostics posting on the Net that made it loud and clear – they were not happy with the Christian faith for believing the path to Heaven was narrow. But is there really anything new or revolutionary about the paths to success being narrow no matter what we are talking about? Does an Olympic gymnast pave her own set of rules to victory? Does an NBA player tell the referees that traveling fouls do not apply to him? No, they don’t. In athletics, education, and the world of career opportunities boundaries are established and enforced. So, why, oh why, would a God of order and purpose not expect the people who seek the sanctuary of His care to abide by a narrow set of guidelines to live by? Is the path to Heaven less important than an Olympic event or an NBA championship?
I believe the narrow path outlined by Jesus makes perfect sense. When we love something, we are willing to sacrifice for it. When we believe in something, we are ready to commit hard work and dedication in its name. Unlike the claims of the modern day pagans, atheists, and agnostics, there is no reason to think that expectations, boundaries, and loyalties limit the human experience. Just like the runner who seeks out the path to victory along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, the Christian is dedicated to remaining on a path that promises a more abundant life, a firmness of purpose, and success only the creator of the universe can deliver.