When I was a child, in a side room of Inverness Baptist Church, which we attended as a family, hung a picture known as the Broad & Narrow Road. First published in 1867 this image, depicting a broad and narrow road with various bible verses and a flaming hell at the end of the broad road, most definitely had an impact on my young mind!
And images do have a strong effect on the mind – much more so the words alone. Hence the reason Jesus told stories where strong images were impressed upon the imagination.
Why this particular image from childhood came to my mind today I’m not sure – but when it did something else came with it – a still small voice impressing upon me the thought that the narrow road is, in fact, the way of love. Could I have got this wrong all these years? I quickly went to the Bible where I discovered that the words of Jesus, which are used as the basis for the image below, are preceded by these:
“In everything you do, be careful to treat others in the same way you’d want them to treat you, for that is the essence of all the teachings of the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12 (TPT)
It is only then we read:
“Come to God through the narrow gate, because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road! The narrow gate and the difficult way leads to eternal life—so few even find it!”
Matthew 7:13714 (TPT)
The narrow way therefor is the way of love – not the narrow duty of religion! Is this of any comfort on our spiritual journey? I’m not sure it is and for this reason – if love really is the narrow road, the way to heaven is much narrower that I thought!
On the road of faith I have met many people. Some were very gifted, some great preachers, some very learned, some very opinionated, some judgemental, some orthodox, some very committed, some prophetic, some untrustworthy – and so the list could go on. But I have met very very few who walk the narrow road of love.
Of course the apostle Paul had grasped this well. Writing to a fledgling church he had to say: “How easily we get puffed up over our opinions! But love builds up the structure of our new life.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) . Later in the same letter of course he outlines the heart of true Christianity – ever linked to the way of love! I seriously ask: Do we really believe this – because if we do then I wonder why the church is where it is today? So I invite you to read 1 Corinthians 13 again – and to ask seriously and prayerfully, as I ask myself, – are we truly walking on the narrow road that leads to life?
“If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
And if I were to have the gift of prophecy[c] with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains, but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.
And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr, without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offence. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.
For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.”
1 Corinthians 13 (TPT)