Today something struck me in reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—something that never occurred to me before. It concerns the two roads that Jesus describes. “Enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus says. “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 few find it” (Matt. 7:13, 14).
I have always understood that to mean “the narrow road to heaven” versus “the highway to hell” (inspired by AC/DC more than Scripture). One road is narrow, I thought, because it doesn’t have to be wide—not that many people travel on it. It’s “salvation road” and, alas, few are interested in seeking God’s way until it’s too late. The wide road is party lane. You can hear raucous music blaring in the distance, the low hums and thumps of bass guitars and drums reverberating in your chest. “How like the days of Noah!” I mused. “How can so many people be that clueless?”
Today I realized that Jesus is using the metaphor of roads to describe basic modes of living—one mode is life-giving; the other destructive.
The roads are sets of choices we make everyday. They take us, alternatively, to different states of existence. When I considered the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety, dawned on me that I travel the wide road more often than I’d like to admit.
I behave in ways that betray a disciple’s character as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). My “righteousness” is all too superficial (5:17-20). I hold grudges and harbor anger (5:1-26). I have impure thoughts (5:27-30). I break my word (5:31-37). I wish harm on my enemies (5:38-48). I harden my heart toward the poor (6:1-4). I forget to pray (6:5-15). I wear goodness on my sleeve (6:16-18). I’m materialistic and worry more than I trust (6:19-34). I expend more energy judging others than I do throwing myself on the mercy of the One who’s waiting for me to ask, seek, and knock (7:1-12).
It’s so easy to be on the wide road and not even know it—until Jesus points it out.
We can’t trust every role model. Jesus says there are many false prophets. Oh, they look good and sound even better. But they’re not following Jesus, and he does not want us following them (7:15-23).
Toward the Sermon’s end Jesus changes metaphors from roads to foundations to underscore the cumulative effect of our daily choices. Wide-road choices put our lives on ground that will fall out from under us. Narrow-road choices put us on solid rock, which will hold firm through whatever life throws at us (7:24-27).
Today—and I can only speak for today—I choose to walk on the narrow road.
What have been your “wide-road choices” or “narrow-road choices”?
Do you, like Chuck, travel the wide road more than you’d like to admit?
Chuck Conniry is Vice President and Dean of George Fox Evangelical Seminary, a graduate school of George Fox University, in Newberg, Oregon. Chuck holds several degrees, including the PhD in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and MDiv from Bethel Seminary, San Diego. He is married to Dianne and together they have three children and one daughter-in-law: Krystal, Matthew (and his wife, Ashley), and Nathan. Chuck loves to write, swim, and ride his Harley. He and his family reside in Sherwood, Oregon.