In Matthew and Luke’s gospels, Jesus urges his listeners to seek out the narrow gate as opposed to the broad one. The narrow path and gate lead to life, while the wide path and gate lead to destruction. Of course, we want to be the ones who are on the path that leads to life, and those who follow Jesus are already alive in him. We are people of the (narrow) way. I wonder if that is why the Jesus’ movement of the first century was called “The Way.”
What should we expect while walking along this path? We know that Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of it. What else do we know? Jesus told us what it would be like, though not all in one conversation. Here are some of the characteristics of the narrow way and those that are on it.
Of all the things that marked Jesus’ teaching, love must have topped the list. I say this because it is a significant focus of the letters of his followers. Jesus said, “If you love me, follow my instructions for you. The main thing I want you to do is to love each other.” (My paraphrase from a couple of verses in John 14 and 15). The apostle John clearly says, “If you say you love God (whom you cannot see) but do not love your brother (who is right there in front of you), you are a liar.” 1 John 4:20 (my paraphrase). People of the narrow way love others, even their enemies, to the death if it comes to that.
The way of Jesus is the way of the servant. He did not come to be served but to serve. He demonstrated that by washing his disciples’ feet, including Judas, who betrayed him later that evening. He told us that if we wanted to be leaders in his kingdom, we needed to be the servant of all. You may have heard the term “servant leader,” and I am sure there is value in having servant qualities in leadership. I would coin the phrase “leaders in service.” Whether we are in leadership roles or following a leader, we are all to be fully servants in God’s kingdom. People of the narrow way are recognized by their humble service.
Both love and service require sacrifice. Jesus’ love and obedience led to sacrifice. This loss may include time, money, and safety. It means leaving country, friends, and family to serve in another country or culture for missionaries. Followers of Jesus are still martyred for their faith. Jesus put it this way. “If you would follow me (along the narrow way), you must give up control of yourself, submit to God’s will for your life, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 No one can predict what this will look like individually. Still, people of the narrow way should understand that sacrifice is normal.
Jesus told his followers that they would suffer while in the world. John 16:33 We should expect nothing less. In our culture, we have made avoiding suffering an art form. All of us have comforts we want to retain. If God leads you into cross-cultural service, these things come to light relatively quickly. The loss of comfort, though, is not the suffering that Jesus was meaning. He was suggesting that the world would not understand his followers. Those whom the world doesn’t understand, it persecutes. You may not be facing persecution or suffering right now. Still, as God calls on you to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit when difficult, you might find that changing. People of the narrow way should be ready to suffer for living like Jesus.
For those of us in the United States, this may be the hardest pill to swallow. Independence defines our culture. We tell ourselves that anything is possible if we work hard enough. If we are truly honest with ourselves, though, we know the truth. We were lost and without hope until Jesus found us and redeemed us to himself. As part of Jesus’ spiritual body, we each play our role, contributing to the whole. When one hurts, we all hurt. When one succeeds, we all win. People on the narrow way are there solely because of Jesus and depend intensely on each other.
“Take my hand. I’ll lead you home.
There’s just no place you can be and be alone.
Right by your side, I’ll see you through.
When your way becomes too hard, I’ll carry you.”By Jeff Boesel
Excerpt from Come and Rest