13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy [a that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. –Jesus in Mathew 7
We don’t go willy-nilly into Kingdom Life with Jesus. He inaugurated the Kingdom on earth and explained it in the Sermon on the Mount and invites his hearers to follow him, to listen to his words and do the things he says as a way towards transformation of their hearts and a way to build strong and joyful lives, knowing that no matter their circumstances they can place their confidence in him and experience the Kingdom life.
He calls the entrance into this kind of life a narrow gate, a hard way yet one that leads to life. We cannot enter it unless we are vigorous, trusting and obedient. It’s just the way it is. Life is like that in so many ways. I like the analogy Dallas Willard uses in his book ‘The Divine Conspiracy’. He writes that a math teacher tells his students, ‘Unless you can do decimals and fractions there is no way you will be able to do algebra.’ Some of us have had that experience. You can’t just do life your own way. There are ways and means and disciplines that are strenuous but lead to better life and I the case of the Kingdom, eternal life.
If you want to play the piano there are elementary things you must do first like learning the keys and the scales and then you must practice, practice and practice some more to be good and to enjoy the piano.
If you want to play basketball you must learn that the ball needs to go into the hoop and not in just some vicinity of the basket. You must learn how to dribble, pass and work as a team or you will not make it.
If we are going to follow Jesus then we must know the way that Jesus teaches, the path he sets for us. For example he tells us to forgive. If we say ‘no’, then we will never experience God’s forgiveness. That’s just the law of Kingdom life. Do we want to live that way knowing Jesus is the greatest teacher that ever lived and he is the Son of God as well? He tells us to pray, to love, to rest, and to trust and he tells us to believe that we are the children of God, that God is our Father, our Abba in the intimate Aramaic term.
He tells us there is a door of self-denial through which we must pass. It’s narrow, stress producing and confining but through it leads to open, freeing, joyous life. Not biological life but God’s eternal life that begins now.
Jesus says to stay in his word, read his word. Read it over and over until you have mastered its contents and then mastered its heart, the heart of Jesus. Those words in the Bible have life in them. Paul writes somewhere for us to let them dwell in our hearts.
I live in a gated community and to take my dog, Lucy, for a walk I have to enter through two posts where two different gates come together separating the properties. It is one tight squeeze and here’s the thing, if I gain any more weight I will not be able to get through. Through the gate is life and a long beautiful walk through the woods. Through the narrow gate is life with Jesus, with God’s spirit, with the Father. I don’t have to lose weight to get through but I might just need to lose ‘myself’.