I had a college professor who had this rule: “If a single student heard me say it (usually regarding an assignment), then I must have said it (and that rule will apply to whatever issue is at hand).” So hear this:
“Enter through the narrow gate.”
Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with four warnings, of which this is the first. There are two paths to take in life: one broad leading to destruction, one narrow leading to life.
Jesus expends a lot of energy for people at the front end of a journey of discipleship. “Count the cost” he puts it elsewhere. Don’t bother starting if you’re not going to see it through. He has a high level of patience with those who are yet undecided.
Christianity is not a populist movement. The church is in danger where it is or seeks to become one. Even among people who profess Christian faith, many are called, but the chosen are few. The narrow way is synonymous with being an outlier, being misunderstood, being discounted, being unpopular, being reviled. But the narrow way is also the way of discipleship, the way of the cross, the way of life.
If you are just following the crowd, you’re in trouble. Even if the crowd is going to church, don’t go just because everyone else is doing it. That is not the entrance to the narrow gate. Our church is part of a denomination that was founded because people were equating going to church and be baptized with voting for a mayor and paying taxes. It is not something everyone does just because.
So be warned. If you’ve come this far, you are starting to grasp that the path ahead is not a flower garden. Get used to it. Following Jesus means sacrifice and self-denial in the same order (though not the magnitude) as that experienced by Christ Himself.
But it leads to life.
Lord, You have the words of life. Where else would I go?