The Narrow Gate Is Our Path to Eternal Freedom
COMMENTARY: Christ’s message could not be more at odds with the aims of secular society, which is to live an unencumbered life on the broad, open and inclusive way.
Christ tells us in the Gospel of Matthew something we need to know but are reluctant to accept:
“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” (7:13-14).
The word “narrow” does not set well with secular thinking. Nor does it welcome anything that is “hard.” To be narrow-minded is a secular sin. And living on Easy Street is, for many, a cherished ambition. The world is in love with things that are “broad,” “open,” and “inclusive.” It also reveres the unencumbered life. Christ, on the other hand, is concerned about our salvation and his message could not be more at odds with the aims of secular society.
A brief examination of secular philosophy on these four points shows how each of them fails to stand up against rational analysis. They are extremely fragile and represent the desperate attempt to make sense out of a life without God.
Scott Peck’s best-seller, The Road Less Traveled, is critical of the individualism and libertinism that are rampant in modern day society, but it does not place the reader on that narrow path that leads to the narrow gate. The same might be said of Henry David Thoreau’s advice that we should “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” His words may appeal to one’s pride, but not necessarily to the true follower of Christ.
A person is complimented for being broad-minded. But a single word does not constitute a realistic philosophy. Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin single-handedly legalized same-sex civil marriage on the basis that a lawyer has a professional obligation to be as broad-minded as possible. Martin should have been more attentive to his studies.
According to an honored maxim in the field of jurisprudence:
“The study of law sharpens the mind by narrowing it.”
The law does not, in a burst of broad-mindedness, convict all the suspects, but only the one who is guilty. This narrowing-down process is at the heart of justice. There are many opinions. To arrive at the truth requires a narrowing process.
The word “open” has wide appeal and seemingly opposes anything that is “closed.” The open-mind, the open-door policy, and even the open marriage gain credibility and acceptance simply because of their association with the word “open.” Yet an open-mind must close if it is to receive knowledge.
In logic, the first act of the mind is apprehension in which knowledge is grasped. The mind that remains eternally open ceases to function as a mind. Apprehension, and not suspension, is needed to inaugurate rational activity. A door opens, but it is also made to close. The same can be said about the hand, the eye, a business store, a refrigerator and innumerable other things that have a dual purpose.
Being “inclusive” is the ultimate certification that one is an honored member of the secular world. Yet, from the standpoint of reason, it is entirely vacuous. Inclusivity does not include any limitation. No one is to be excluded. Nonetheless, in a generous display of unjustified enthusiasm, if one welcomes Satan to the group he expels Christ. “Get thee behind me,” said Christ to Satan (Mark 8:33).
Inclusivity cannot embrace contradictories. Nor can Quakers and Nazis happily co-exist under the umbrella of inclusivity. Every sensible morality provides principles that indicate what should be done and what should be avoided. Virtue and vice, innocence and guilt, light and darkness, have nothing in common and therefore cannot be brought together under the canopy of inclusivity. The notion of including everybody is a dream that has no anchor in reality.
In order to avoid studies that are hard, publishing houses have come to the rescue. We now have French Without Pain, Italian Without Toil, Shakespeare for Dummies, along with similarly “dummy-oriented” content on internet, real estate, wine and auto repair. Education should be made easy.
St. Thomas Aquinas has written about how negligence, idleness and sloth can be serious roadblocks along the narrow path. He advised hard work in this life, since we have all eternity to rest. Catholic novelist Anthony Burgess has stated the matter most imaginatively:
“Wedged as we are between two eternities of idleness, we have no excuse for being idle now.”
Christ’s words cited in Matthew 7:13-14, when properly understood, make it clear that the broad, open, inclusive, easy street that the world is fashioning is one that goes nowhere. The road to salvation, we might say, has toll booths along the way that demand payment in the form of hard work, overcoming temptations, prayer, sacrifice and love, even for one’s enemies. It is a hard road, but, when one realized where it leads, is an exhilarating one.
The false prophets about which Christ warned, appeal to our baser instincts. In trying to make things too easy for us, they rob us of our energy, our substance and impede our path to God.
“It is nice to do nothing, and then rest afterwards,” states a Spanish aphorism. We were created, however, to enjoy eternal life with God. All roads may lead to Rome, but the path to salvation is both singular, hard and narrow. This makes all the more sense as the vacuity of secular imperatives become exposed for what they are.