The Narrow Gate
“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.” John 10:13-14
This was the lesson assignment on Sunday and, frankly, I was not too enthusiastic about teaching it. A good part of that is residue from the wars over Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and I did not want to get into a big (or small) discussion about who goes to hell.
As you know, the version of the passage in Luke begins with the question, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” That question could have come from one who was interested in making sure heaven is exclusive enough for them instead of an interest in knowing there is enough grace. It could have been one of my own Sunday School teachers when I was a kid in church and being taught that only 144,000 were going to be in heaven. My guess is it was someone wanting to be certain of their own status.
Whatever the motivation and the intent of the question the response is the same. “Narrow is the gate”. In my mind, I see the questioner saying to himself, “Whew, that works for me. I know how to do narrow!” Of course, Jesus then turns it into what Eugene Peterson calls “The Great Reversal” and says, in effect, the gate is narrow but the kingdom is more diverse and broader than you realize.
It started me thinking that indeed the gate is narrow but that doesn’t mean the people are narrow once they are in. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Those who turn away from the narrow door become turned in on themselves. “For a damned soul is nearly nothing: it is shrunk, shut up in itself.” (C.S. Lewis) Those who make it through the narrow door not only find life but a life that is expansive and broad. They find a life of confidence even in the midst of uncertainty and a life able to handle complexity without retreat into defensiveness. They realize that while the way is narrow – the people of God are not.