26 Oct 2016
Jesus gives us one of those lines that people tend to remember: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” We can do that; we like to strive. But it would be a mistake if we took this to mean: “I need to do more good things; I need to strive more and try harder in my faith.” And that’s because our salvation—which is the purpose of our faith—isn’t dependent upon how hard we work.
We know this, but we forget: We cannot work our way into heaven; it doesn’t matter how hard we try. The “narrow gate” Jesus refers to is the acceptance of this fact and the life of faith which follows from it. It’s a life of true faith, sacrificial faith, a life of sometimes painful trust that God really is the Lord of my life. The “narrow gate” is a life guided by—and I daresay controlled by—the will and the intentions of God. In other words, it’s a life that undoes the sin of Adam and Eve; our first parents who decided that they knew better than God. It’s a life very contrary to the contemporary mindset.
And so, “striving to enter through the narrow gate” means: “striving to do less ourselves” and “striving to let God do more for us.” It’s counter-intuitive because, of course, we want to control our lives. We want to determine our own destiny; we’re not too keen on letting somebody else decide what our life will be like. And that’s why Jesus can say, “Many, I tell you, will attempt to enter [through the narrow gate] but will not be strong enough.”
It takes strength to call Jesus “Lord” and to mean it. It takes the strength of humility to say, “I’m not the master of my destiny; God is; my Creator is. He is the Lord of my life, not me.” It takes strength to say, “I trust him more than I trust myself.”
But the more we “strive” to step back and let God be God for us, the more he’ll actually be our Lord. Then we can call him “Lord” and he’ll recognize us as someone he knows; as someone he cares for and directs and guides on a daily basis. To call Jesus “Lord” invokes, really, the strength of intimacy and love. Because to call him “Lord” is to say to him, “I trust you with my life. And I trust you because I know the lengths you go to love me.”
Jesus knows it’s hard to take the path of humility and trust, because it’s the path of weakness. But, as Saint Paul says, “It’s when I am weak that I am strong.” And our strength in entering through the narrow gate is in knowing—in faith—that, truly, the Lord is the Lord of my life. With him guiding the way, there is nothing for us to fear.