‘Strive to enter the narrow gate’

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

Today the question might be, “Who will be saved?” Or, “Are you saved?” A similar question, but Luke puts it a bit differently. It’s almost as though the questioner is hoping that Jesus will tell him or her, “Yes, only a few will be saved, and you’re one of them!” Certainly that would have been comforting. Anyone would like to know that they’re saved, right? But Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook so easily. Instead of answering the question with a simple “yes” or “no,” he sets some criteria.
She was standing in the grocery store checkout line. The clerk had just given her change for $20 but she knew that she had only given him $10. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

He was checking out an automobile that had been brought in for repairs. Most of the work could be done using reconditioned parts, but he would make a bigger profit if he charged for new ones. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”
She had scheduled more than the usual number of patients for the day, even though she knew that this would mean spending less time with each one. But her billing was down and the CEO was pressuring her to increase her patient load. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”

Had anyone asked any of these people if they were saved they probably would have said, “Yes.” After all, they were good, church-going, Christian people. In fact, they hardly ever missed a Sunday. Kind of like this little verse. I don’t know who first said it, but it goes something like this: “Mr. Christian went to church; he never missed a Sunday. But Mr. Christian went to hell for what he did on Monday.”

Jesus said that many would try to enter, but that they wouldn’t be strong enough. Perhaps it isn’t so much that the narrow gate won’t be wide enough to let everyone in. Maybe it’s just that so few people are willing to do what it takes to enter that a narrow gate is all that’s needed.

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.