In June of 2013 two men who lived two very different lives both died on the same day. People around the country read, listened to and watched as reports of Richard Rameriz aka the Nightstalker went out over all media outlets announcing he had died. He was convicted of at least 13 murders he committed in the Los Angeles area, but authorities also believed him to be responsible for additional slayings from Orange County to San Francisco as well as numerous rapes, assaults and burglaries. Joseph Michael Sullivan was an American priest. There was no public announcement, no fanfare when he died or at his funeral there were no media retrospectives about his life or career. One man lived only for himself and the other lived to serve God. One experienced undeserved attention and notoriety, while the other lived in obscurity. One man’s life was marred by crime and violence while the other man’s life was a model of faithfulness.
The Bible affirms what is readily observable to all of us: no one leaves this world alive. As some have stated “The statistics on death are very impressive: one out of every one dies.” Admittedly, it seems unjust that everyone would experience the same fate regardless of his or her conduct in this life. Yet, it is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and the same for the wicked; for the good or the “bad”, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear. (Ecclesiastes 9:2)
King Solomon the wisest person to ever live understood this seemingly unfair outcome and he knew the answer. Although there is one fate for all human beings, there are two very different destinies beyond what we understand as death, one for the righteous and unrighteous. Solomon believed God’s judgment awaits every person beyond death: “‘God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,’ for a time for every matter and for every deed is there” (Ecclesiastes 3:17) Jesus Christ also affirmed that there are two very different roads in this life that lead to two distinct destinies in the next life: Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14).
Do you ever wonder which road you are traveling? Perhaps you believe you are walking on the narrow road already. (Matthew 7:14) warns us that “there are few who find” this narrow road. The Greek word for “find” implies that we must actively seek the narrow road, while the word “few” warns us that not many are finding the narrow road. So why would anyone choose the narrow gate anyway, symbolizing the way we must live, when it is such a difficult path compared to the smooth, effortless way of the wide road of the world, especially since we are all dying to get out of this world anyway? Because there are often adventures, thrills and vistas available only to those who take the difficult path. The difficult way brings rewards that those who remain on the smooth and easy way will never know in this life or the one to come.
The Greek word that Jesus used for “narrow” in the “narrow way” refers to a road that is “narrow and troublesome” to travel. The road is not difficult because it has potholes, debris, or rocks on it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been describing the characteristics of those who follow Him on the narrow road. He has told us that the poor in spirit, those who see themselves as spiritual beggars, will enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who mourn over their sin, are gentle, hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, are pure in heart, are peacemakers, and are persecuted for the sake of righteousness will someday live in heaven. We have been told that we should forgive those who offend us and seek to make peace with another who has been offended by us. We have been warned not to lust, not seek revenge, not love money, and not to be judgmental of others all the things that seemingly come natural to us.
Jesus told his disciples they should always pray, that holds true for us also. God is looking for so much more. He is looking for your heart to say, “I believe in YOU. I yield myself to YOU, YOUR ways, YOUR boundaries of this life. I give myself to YOU and only YOU. I am ready to serve YOU and only YOU, forsaking all else. What would YOU have me do for YOU?”
When you look in the mirror can you honestly unequivocally say this is you?