Two Roads. One Choice.
by Bob Merritt
In Matthew 5–7, Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, which is the essence of what Jesus wanted us to know about life. Boil it all down, and these three chapters contain the most penetrating words in the entire Old and New Testaments. In that sermon, Jesus tackled the most sensitive topics: murder, adultery, divorce, anger, worry, judging others, and the way to salvation. And he didn’t sugarcoat them. Matthew recorded, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt. 7:28–29).
But then Jesus warned his listeners of two roads: “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” (Matt. 7:13–14). Jesus says there are two ways to live life. Not one way, not three ways, but two. The choice that every human being has to make is between a broad road and a narrow road, a careless road and a disciplined road. And you can’t combine the two. You can’t straddle the fence. The Bible says that we have to choose between one of these two roads.
Choice one is the broad road. It’s there, and it’s available. Jesus describes what the broad road is like: it has no boundaries or restraints, so you don’t have to aim at it in order to hit it. It requires no disciplines. It has no list of do’s and don’ts, no alarm clocks, no deadlines, no curfews, no responsibilities. It has a broad morality: immorality. It has a broad truth: no truth. And it has a broad freedom, which is actually a false freedom, because it results in breakups, breaches of trust, and bondage.
Many people today suggest that life should not be burdened by disciplines and restrictions. Those things feel constraining, and so they choose the broad road. They also choose the broad road because it is popular. It’s not lonely on the broad road. Jesus says that many are on this road; you’ll have a lot of company if you choose this road because many are traveling it. But Jesus also says that the broad road leads somewhere. Every road has a destination, and the broad road leads to destruction. And he’s not just talking about eternal destruction as in an eternal hell someday. He’s talking about destruction in all its forms—in relationships, families, careers, and personal health. Jesus says you cannot travel the broad road without its leading to destruction, because there are negative consequences for those who travel this road.
But then Jesus says there’s another road, another option, and you and I must intentionally choose to follow it. At first glance, this other road appears to have some disadvantages, because it has restrictions and boundaries. There are certain things you must and must not do. For example, you have to be careful where you walk, how you walk, and with whom you walk, because the Bible says that this is a narrow road. You have to aim at it and be careful when you’re on it. To quote my skydiving friend, “There’s only one way to do this or we die.” That’s a narrow road. It has restrictions, warnings, and dangers. But some of the best roads I’ve ever been on were extremely narrow.
A few years ago, my wife, Laurie, and I were on a narrow road in Maui that made us both sweat. I gripped the steering wheel with both hands and heard her say, “Why do I let you talk me into these things?” There were blind curves with rock walls going straight up on one side and five-hundred-foot cliffs that dropped straight down to the sea on the other. And there were no guardrails. I noticed several makeshift shrines with wooden crosses and plastic flowers where people had tragically wandered off the narrow road. But the off-road hikes we took that day led us to cascading waterfalls, magnificent views, and ocean blowholes that are seared into our memory.
So first, this road is narrow, which makes it tough to follow. But Jesus says that what’s even more difficult is that “there’s only a few who travel it.” It can be lonely on the narrow road, and that’s hard. When it seems like you’re the only one in your school who’s trying to live a clean life, that’s hard. When you’re the only one in your family who goes to church, that’s hard. When you’re the only one in your work group who doesn’t use foul language, that’s hard. When you’re the only one in your dormitory who’s made a commitment to sexual purity, that can be hard and lonely.
But look where the narrow road leads—to life. Jesus says that while the broad road leads to destruction, the narrow road leads to life. And he’s not just referring to some distant eternal life in heaven. It is life for the here and now, in all its forms. Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus wants us to have a full life on earth, filled with family, love, great friends, meaningful careers, financial stability, purposeful contributions to society, and an intimate relationship with God. And all that is possible. Some people really do have “life to the full” in this present life. It’s not that they don’t have problems or deep losses—nobody’s immune to those things—but there’s a fullness and joy about them that comes from a life that’s well acquainted with the narrow road.