“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
I’m a total word nerd, so the opposites in this verse caught my attention as I prepared to write on this week’s theme. Wide/Small. Broad/Narrow. Destruction/Life. Many/Few. I challenge you to find a better verse for the theme of “Opposites.”
I recently read Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic by Kent and Amber Brantly with David Thomas. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the true story of a family’s personal experience while serving in Liberia in 2014 during the worst Ebola outbreak the world had ever seen. Reading a true story about two people who were willing to live out such opposite values from American culture I’m daily surrounded by, left me extremely encouraged.
The book also presented a timely reminder of what living out true faith looks like, and the word “opposite” sums it up perfectly. While I can easily get caught up in seeking my own comforts, wants and needs, I’m always called to live a life devoted to loving God and loving people in a radically different way. Without fear, without prejudice and without judgement, choosing the small gate and the narrow road that leads to life.
The theme of comfort being an idol jumped right off the pages at me as I read the book. Dr. Brantly noticed this idol in his own heart during his time in medical school as he prepared to follow the call to serve as a physician overseas and intentionally chose to follow the less comfortable route. The definition of comfort I found in a quick internet search is “a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.” Turning that definition upside down, the opposite of comfort would be “a state of physical strife and oppression from pain or constraint.”
YIKES! Do we realize what we’re volunteering for when we say we’re willing to give up anything and everything to go serve in a distant land? I’d say we often don’t. But anyone signing up for a life of following Jesus wherever he may lead (whether that’s down the street or across the ocean) should take a long, hard look at the opposite definition of comfort.
Reviewing the initial verse I shared about the wide gate or the small gate, this applies to all of us Jesus followers, not just those of us who are currently living in a distant land. I have been back in America for almost three years and it’s frightening how easy it is to choose my own comfort and sit back with “the many” instead of continuing to resist the currents of popular thought and culture as “the few” do.
As a member of “the few,” Dr. Brantly’s determination to fight for the victims of Ebola to be treated with compassion and respect and urging others to join him in caring for them flew right in the face of the most common response to the outbreak–FEAR. It was a common reaction, and probably would’ve been mine, too, because I declare an emergency when encountering the stomach bug, much less EBOLA! Often fear is a knee-jerk reaction in times of crisis, but again, we’re called to respond with just the opposite: COURAGE. The opposites pairing of Fear/Courage brings to mind another verse:
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
God gave us a courageous spirit, but it’s not our natural choice. As we continue walking along the narrow path, we must continue in courage. Regardless of our circumstances. The example of Ebola is rather extreme, but it’s something that happened to an unsuspecting doctor who had no idea of the trouble he was signing on for when he arrived in his country of service. Like him, we scarcely know what life will throw our way, but as we’re reminded in John 16:33:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)
I find that when trouble hits, I often default to my flesh, not my faith. The only way to combat that and continually choose to do the opposite of what’s EASY is consistently reminding myself of God’s truth. I hope you are encouraged by these verses as you face your own trials.
If you’re in the middle of a hard time right now, I’d like to remind you to seek out encouragement in the Word. I can often respond in the exact opposite way I’m called to if I’m floating through life in the wide lane that leads to destruction with the masses ignoring God’s Word.
Maybe your choices today look like choosing kindness instead of annoyance when dealing with crowds on public transportation or fighting back at busy by carving out a day to rest during back to school season or choosing to pray instead of fret about whatever is on your mind.
Share an opposites word pairing you’ve been challenged by recently, and the scripture it brings to mind. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!