Bewildered. That’s how I would describe so many faithful Christians recently. They’ll express a deep confusion about how so many people could exist without faith of any kind. They’ll wonder how so many Christians could embrace teachings and lifestyles that are clearly against God’s created order and even spoken against by Jesus. They’ll speak with exasperation about religious and political leaders who gather hoards of Christians in holy hatred toward others, referring to them as the enemy. Jesus warned us about this.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
Increasingly I feel the need to see ourselves as a remnant, humbly walking the narrow way behind Jesus. This remnant are the faithful few who refuse the wide, easy path to destruction. Rather, we see the need to follow ever closer to Jesus, imitating his life and gaining strength through his death and resurrection for us. We embrace the life of truth and love, simplicity and generosity, grace and forgiveness, sacrifice and humility. Lest we think of ourselves as blazing a new trail, we have good company on this narrow way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed the same phenomenon in 1937 and wrote these impassioned words that we would do well to observe.
The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For he is himself the way, the narrow way and the strait gate. He, and he alone, is our journey’s end. When we know that, we are able to proceed along the narrow way through the strait gate of the cross, and on to eternal life, and the very narrowness of the road will increase our certainty. The way which the Son of God trod on earth, and the way which we too must tread as citizens of two worlds on the razor edge between this word and the kingdom of heaven, could hardly be a broad way. The narrow way is bound to be right.”
The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (190-191)