“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”Matthew 7:14 (KJV)
My family and I recently returned from a vacation to visit family in western North Carolina. Coming from west central Minnesota where our roads are wide and straight, the narrow, winding mountain roads of western North Carolina, although incredibly beautiful, proved a bit sketchy at times for us.
Yet, both the straight roads of west central Minnesota and the narrow mountain roads of North Carolina both provide illustrations of how we should approach the daily ministry of our lives.
In Acts 13, Paul uses the illustration of a straight versus crooked path to challenge a false prophet for attempting to lead someone away from the faith. It says a man named Bar-Jesus, described as a Jewish false prophet, opposed the work of Barnabas and Paul, trying to turn the proconsul of Cyprus away from the faith. Paul calls him out for this, saying, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (v.10)
Paul’s condemnation of the false prophet for twisting the way of the Lord fits with John the Baptist’s description of his ministry in John 1, where he says in verse 23 referencing Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
As followers of Jesus, our personal ministries need to present the way of the Lord straight like a west central Minnesota road. Witnesses of Jesus Christ need to present a clear, straight path to the gospel. This includes through our words, our conduct, our priorities, and our loves. Our message of Christ crucified needs to be shared clearly without the hindrance of hypocrisy, worldly philosophies, distortions of truth, and the distractions of lesser things.
While our methods need to be “straight,” it also needs to be clear that the path to the Lord is itself narrow, like a western North Carolina mountain road. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14, KJV).
Following Jesus is “strait” in the sense that it is narrow. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The way to the Father is narrow and it only goes through Jesus. Jesus isn’t one of many paths. He’s the one and only path. It’s also narrow in the sense that most of the world believes and lives in a way contradictory to the way of Jesus.
Creating Crooked Paths in My Life
As I write this, I can’t help but reflect on how often the paths to the Lord I make crooked at times are the ones of those I love most. More than anyone else, my wife and daughters see most frequently and clearly when my conduct doesn’t match my preaching or my writing. My daughters notice when I preach about grace, but then neglect to show it to them when they’ve made a mistake. My wife notices when I write about living selflessly for the Lord but then selfishly seek my own plans and needs.
I pray when this happens that they increasingly hear from me a confession and a request for forgiveness and see repentance walked out in me.
Straight and Narrow
As we follow Jesus, may our methods of evangelism and discipleship be straight and presented without hindrance. And may our message focus on the gospel and the narrow path we must walk to follow Jesus.