If given the option between the difficult and the easy, we often choose the easy.
During my Senior year of high school, my chemistry teacher asked me if I wanted her to push me a little extra, give me harder concepts to learn to help prepare me for college, or just to do the work like everyone else was doing. I chose the easy work. Looking back, I wish I had taken advantage of her willingness to push me to deeper learning, but at the time I was only concerned with what would be the easiest route to take.
Often, when conflicts arise in families, between friends, or at work we all know the healthiest response is to deal with the conflict even though it will be difficult and could cause hurt feelings. However, we must admit there are times when we avoid the conflict, not because it will make life better, but because it will make life easier.
When given the choice, we, more often than not, choose the easy route. So what do we do then when Jesus offers a choice, one easy and one difficult? Do we follow Jesus even when it is hard?
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
As disciples we understand that we have to take the hard road. Enter through the narrow gate Jesus says. Even though it will be harder. Even though fewer will come with us, we still must take the narrow road if we want to be followers. Discipleship calls us to enter through the narrow gate. But what is the narrow way.
For years we’ve convinced ourselves that Jesus is simply talking about going to church and being a Christian. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we are faithful church attenders, if we put a little bit of money in the collection plate, and if we vote for candidates that espouse “family values” then we are following the narrow way. However, how difficult is it really to be a church attendee in our culture. I live in a southern conservative city where the majority of my neighbors still value church attendance. Just fitting in with the cultural standard is not what Jesus is talking about. Even if I were to live in an area of the country that was less socially and religiously conservative, still in the United States espousing Christian values is not looked down upon. Surely just going to church is not the easy way.
Jesus gives this command to enter through the narrow gate near the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s given after he has challenged the norms of what it means to be a follower of God. Jesus has commanded us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to willingly suffer wrong for the sake of others, to relinquish our hold on possessions, and to give freely. Jesus said that the kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit, the meek, and the peaceful, not the victorious and strong. To live this type of life, to follow Christ in this way of discipleship, is clearly a narrow road. There is nothing easy about this type of life. There are many who will hear these teachings and walk away. This is more than just cultural Christianity, and going to church services on Sunday morning. It’s especially more than just voting for the candidate whose political party proclaims to uphold family values. This is the narrow road of discipleship. This is the difficult way. There are few who will find this way.
We stand at the precipice of a major decision. This is not a decision for the country we live in, or even the world. This is a decision for discipleship. Will I choose to be a disciple today? Will you choose to be a disciple today? Two roads are laid out before us. One is the broad path whose way is easy. There are many who will follow this path, but Jesus warns us it leads to destruction. Or, there is the narrow path that is difficult and hard. It is a life that embraces the hard teachings of Jesus and there are few who will travel this road with us. We stand at the precipice of a major decision. Now the choice is ours. Will we embrace the narrow road of discipleship or will we take the easy way out?