“One of the accusations against Christianity is that is it narrow-minded. The exclusive claim of salvation only in Christ goes against the modern open-minded thinking…”
(That’s from Emil Toader’s devotional in Heaven and Nature Sing, December 1)
Emil grew up in Communist Romania, so he’s no stranger to ridicule for his faith. His “narrow gate” devotional theme spans three days in our book.
He says, “There is a striking contrast in Jesus’ description between the way and the destination. The narrow gate and path lead to Life. The wide gate and path lead to extreme narrowness: death and destruction.”
(Emil leads Missio International and Alpinis Leadership Center in Romania)
What IS the Narrow Gate?
Jesus said these words over 2,000 years ago in His famous Sermon on the Mount:
“Enter in by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter in by it. How the gate is narrow and the way is restricted that leads to life! There are few who find it.”(Matthew 7:13-14, World English Bible, public domain)
As Emil says in his December 2nd devo: “The narrow gate is a Person. It is Christ Himself. That is why it is narrow—because it is too good to be true! He is the way, the truth and the life.”
Why is the Narrow Gate So Hard?
One day, I was reading through that passage in Matthew and I wrote these words in my journal:
Why, Jesus? You love everyone so much. Why is it so hard for us to love truth? Why so easy to compromise and rationalize our way to comfort and independence? Why is sin so easy and true goodness (Your kind of goodness) so hard?
Then I realized it’s not just our spiritual life that requires squeezing through that narrow, restricted gate—it’s every part of life that matters!
Here’s what I mean:
The common denominator for everything that’s hard? You have to say “No” to yourself!
That’s it. It’s back to the surrender issue!
Narrow Gates in the Outdoors and Nature
I can think of a few examples of “narrow gates” in our outdoor activity. These are all in America. I bet you can think of examples where you live, too.
The Boundary Waters
Those who love canoe trips in the Boundary Waters have to go through a narrow gate to enjoy the wide open lakes and forests of the million acres of this protected area:
- You must make an online reservation that includes a specific date and entrance point (no refunds)
- You must have your permit with you
- You must limit your group to 9 people or fewer
- You must camp on designated campsites
- You must leave home all glass and metal food containers, and anything motorized.
Strict? Yes. Do you want to get into the Boundary Waters? Then you have to follow these restrictions. Don’t want to follow them? No Boundary Waters for you. It’s your choice.
Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier is one of the most spectacular drives in North America…maybe even the world. I’ve been on it a few times, most recently on a family trip in 2019.
During the covid pandemic, the park put a reservation system in place for the Sun Road during its peak summer season. They’ve since left that system in place, and now everyone has to have a vehicle reservation for a specific day during a specific time window.
That’s a narrow, restricted gate.
Do you want to see the stunning mountains, lakes and wildlife of this famous road? Then you have to squeeze through that gate. Try the easier wide gate and you’ll get turned away because you don’t have a permit.
Kayaking Lake Superior
I finally got to fulfill a dream of kayaking on Lake Superior a couple of summers ago with a group of lady friends. We went through a tour company because we knew this kind of activity needed to go through a narrow gate that included:
- A certain type of kayak, life jackets, wet suits and reliable paddles
- Knowledge of the area, rescue skills and big water paddling know-how
- Campsite reservations
There are people who ignore that narrow gate and go through the wide one instead (whatever kayak I want, wherever I want to go, I don’t want to bother with the hassle or spend the money).
Some of these wide-gate people have ended up in big trouble. Some have even ended up dead because of hypothermia from Superior’s frigid waters.
We chose the narrow gate and had a wonderful experience. Others have chosen the wide gate and disaster followed.
(By the way, the owners of our tour company are more co-authors of Heaven and Nature Sing. You can look them up at Whitecap Kayak.)
Life is Full of Narrow Gates
So you see, life is full of narrow gates. We can opt out of them and choose the wide ones instead…but we need to understand they don’t lead to life. The narrow ones do.
Jesus’ meaning about the wide and narrow gates refers to the most important choice of all—will we follow Him? Will we believe He is the only way, truth and life? That no one gets to the Father (God) except through Him?
That’s His claim.
Not all roads lead to God any more than all roads lead to Chicago. Or all trails lead to Bright Angel Canyon. Or all pathways lead to a medical degree.
We don’t tend to favor narrow, restricted ways. But we live in reality where the paths we choose lead to distinct places.
The wonderful thing is, Jesus tells us how to get to Life. He’s opened the gate for it—which is Himself—and the invitation is for everyone.