“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."
When my family first moved to Dallas, I had a commitment requiring me to go to Arlington several times a week. Talking to people here about that commute, it seemed everyone had their own favorite way to get from Dallas to Arlington. Metroplex citizens loved to advocate their individual ways.
We are all people used to choosing. Not surprisingly, this characteristic moves into the spiritual realm, and probably the majority view today is that there are many pathways to God and to eternal life. But this is not the view of Jesus, who said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
More than 800 years before Jesus, a distinguished military man confronted that radical reality. 2 Kings 5 records the story of Naaman, a commander in Syria’s army. Though highly respected, Naaman was a leper. But he heard from an Israeli servant girl that there was a prophet in Israel who might heal him. Naaman obtained a letter of introduction from Syria’s king and went to see Elisha the prophet.
Elisha did not meet with the impressive Syrian but sent a messenger directing Naaman to wash 7 times in the Jordan River. Then Naaman would be “clean,” restored from the deadly corruption of his disease (2 Kings 5:10). But Naaman was angry. Elisha had not even performed a ritual over him! And Damascus had its own rivers he could choose for washing! He was unimpressed, but his servants persuaded him to try.
God’s prophet offered Naaman no options. Naaman washed in the Jordan, and his flesh became “like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5:14) God’s grace reached this man through the prophet’s words; there was one way to his renewed life. With God’s light, Naaman said, “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel…” (2 Kings 5:15). The Syrian commander articulated God’s unique reality, and Naaman’s story illustrates that there is one way to God’s gift of life.
Naaman also seemed to desire to follow God who gave him life. He asked Elisha for the LORD’s pardon for times he might be forced to enter an idol’s temple back in Syria.
Naaman’s story really happened, and it also points toward God’s salvation in His Son, the Way to flourishing life. Naaman’s plea to Elisha also witnesses that the way of true life is not easy.
Those who believe in Jesus are cleansed and saved for eternal life —and as Jesus said, that “way” will not be easy. The temptation to default to the world’s ways is always present. It’s easier to think and talk about prayer than to pray. It’s easier to be silent than to speak for Jesus. It’s hard to give, hard to trust while suffering, hard to love, hard to repent and rely on Him for change. And yet this, through Jesus alone, is the pathway to full life.