“You’re both fired,” my new boss, who had joined the organization only a week ago, told me and my christian coworker. The new boss was a man who had jet black hair and a long beard, the one that almost reached down to his chest, a man who went to the mosque five times a day to say his prayers. This was the same time when the American war on terror had started and I was working in a small software house as a web designer and animator, in the city of Lahore, Pakistan.
When I asked him why he had fired me, he told me that me and my other Christian friend were always slowing down work, we were not regular and we were not doing any work which was satisfying to their standards. It was far from the truth. The only thing important to note was that me and my christian friend were the only working Christians in the small organization. We were both fired on the same day, at the same time with the same accusations. We were handed our termination letters and were told to exit the premises immediately, we were not even allowed to clear out our cabins or take away any personal files, no sir. I know why he fired us, it was nothing to do with our work, it was because he thought that Christians should not be allowed to sit alongside Muslims and that it was due revenge because Afghanistan was being attacked by a Christian nation, America, so any chance he could get to humiliate us was a good opportunity.
Sounds a bit over, right? Well, in a country like Pakistan, this is a normal day for a Christian. It does not mean all Pakistani Muslims are like this, no, but a majority is this way and they do not hide it at all. Christians in Pakistan are often mistreated because of their faith. There are still places where Christians are not served food in a restaurant if the waiter sees a cross hanging from someone’s neck. Many are forced to leave their jobs, many face bullying in schools and colleges. This and much more. Suffice to say that there are places in the world where being a Christian alone qualifies you for hardships and troubles just because of your faith.
Back then when I was fired, I related my experience to what Christ had said:
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.
But what did Christ mean when he said these words. If you have been hearing tele-evangelists for a long time, who always make everything sound too easy, you may not realize what exactly the term “narrow” means.
Most often, we can relate to this term because of the hardships of our life, difficult times, financially or as a family. When I got fired I also thought the same. Other times, we relate to the term as in being tempted by the devil and that is also the same way the metaphor of the narrow road is portrayed by John Bunyan in his work, “the pilgrim’s progress” .
The picture to the left comes close to where I was travelling. And although I have been there a few times, this was the only time when I actually thought about those words in a different way. I saw that on a narrow road the driving experience becomes somewhat of a struggle. Everything you would be taking in easily on a broad highway is replaced by anticipation and excitement. You never know what you are going to see around the corner.
You are in a state where your reflexes and awareness of your surroundings are heightened. You do not cruise, you go slow, going around blind corners and slippery slopes, making sure that your tires does not go too near the edge where they might lose grip.
There are many bumps in the road and it is not a comfortable experience. And it made me wonder about what Christ had said. I believe that being a Christian is sure a problem when you are a minority and you will receive hardship in life. And I think Christ made it clear that there will be times when you might be killed because of your faith but now I think what Christ really meant by taking the narrow road, has a much more profound meaning than physical hardships and being lured or being tempted by sin.
If you locate these words in your Bible you will find them just as the sermon on the mount ends. Many believe that the whole teaching ascribed to the sermon on the mount is basically a summary of Jesus’ teachings that Matthew told in a single continuous monologue. But in the context of how the verse is located, it represents how important that sermon on the mount was and it affects our lookout on life. That sermon clearly represents some of the most radical teachings of Christ and in some way they are some of the hardest acts to do. Things like, forgiving debts, asking for blessings to someone who harmed you in the most vile of manners, and many other things.
I have since then come to realize that the Christian faith is not just about surviving hardships, and the meaning of the narrow road is more profound than a struggle for faith. I believe the narrow road also represents the burden of responsibility we as the bearers of the gospel, have. It is more than just suffering for your faith, it is about taking the difficult road, the right path, to make the right choice, to follow Christ and be like him. In other words it’s not just about physical actions but how we fight our inner weaknesses, our spiritual dilemmas. For how can you say “God bless you” to someone you hate? You can not, unless you truly mean it.
Preaching and criticizing is very easy but to walk the talk is something that requires more than just a professing faith in the Son of God. The narrow road awaits you at every turn and corner of your life. It will be there, when you can help someone, it will be there when you can reach out to someone, it will be there when you can save someone, it will be there when the person you dislike the most will come to you asking for your help. The point is not to act and pretend you do not feel disgusted or hateful, the point is that you realize that your action flows from the love of God and not a need to “look” Christian.
The narrow road leads to life because it demands purity and sanctification. It means to fight with your doubts, not with blind assurance but the realization that God is by your side and trusting him completely. It means to be transformed into the love of Christ not to pretend like a “Good Christian”. It is much more deep and personal than merely fighting temptation.
It means to believe and care about your faith and how you represent Christ, it means to lay down your own profit for the sake of others. To sacrifice when it benefits others; and it asks for an honest YOU. Travelling on the narrow road does not mean you give millions to the poor because you are a billionaire. It is about giving your only two dimes to help someone else when that is all you have left. It does not mean to give to others from the abundance of your wealth but from the abundance of your love and whatever it may cost you.
It asks for a genuine relationship with God, not just a routine of going to church, tithing and good works. It does not mean to survive in rough conditions, it means to be honest in every situation and be true even if it means suffering and hardships for you.
In the end, it solely depends on you how narrow do you really want your road to be. A lot of Christians are believers but are they travelling on a narrow road? Ask them about this and they will tell you how the lord had blessed them abundantly and how they are prosperous and how they are good and they preach and minister and all. But are they taking the narrow road? some of them may give you a surprising look and a blank stare.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
That in my opinion is taking the narrow road, to not only pray for others but help them as well, to seek others as Christ sought us, to help others as we were shown grace and to forgive others as God forgave us. It is not about money, it is about being like Christ and how through you, God can touch others in a life-changing way.
The narrow road is hard because you will have to carry your cross but it will also lead you to life. I encourage you to take it. It is not easy but that is why Christ gave us a helper. Do not just pretend like a Christian but let the Holy spirit transform you in the love of Christ and you will see the change. It may be a slow process but it will come, do not lose heart.