If you’ve ever read Matthew 7:12-14, maybe you’ve been just as confused as me. After all, didn’t the apostle Peter say that God was not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)? Doesn’t Paul tell the Athenians that God overlooked mankind’s ignorance of Him in the past (Acts 17:29-30, NIV)? And after seeming to condemn the rich, doesn’t Jesus make an allowance for them in Matthew 19:26, saying, “With men [entering heaven] is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” So why do we read in Matthew 7 that, “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?” According to this, it sounds like almost nobody will ever get to heaven, and this just doesn’t seem to fit.
This has bothered me for some time. If not for Matthew 7, I could easily say that God is blowing wide the gates of heaven, calling all people to repentance and relationship with Him. This is what the Bible tells us He wants. But this one powerful little passage is like a hitch in the step toward Him, making the journey seem more like a scavenger hunt than an open invitation to God’s house. But wait – read it again and notice how one word can make a world of difference….
Few there be that find it – KJV
Only a few find it – NIV
Those who find it are few – RSV
Only a few ever find it – NLT
Bible translations differ on certain words sometimes, there is a key word here - find. The answer to our question then is, we do not find our own way – but we can be found.
I had the opportunity to see Trans Siberian Orchestra in concert at the Consol Energy Center on December 16th. TSO has a Christmas show called, “The Lost Christmas Eve” which contains a rhyming narrative, interspersed with music. This year’s narrative told the story of an angel sent from heaven to find the person on earth who most represented God’s love. The angel wanders around New York City looking for such a person, eventually coming across an embittered, booze-addled businessman who lost his wife and rejected his mentally handicapped son. Although the rejection of his son was wrong, the man’s next words echoed eerily in the transformed hockey arena as the audience, worn down by a year of tragedy and devastation, listened intently: “If man is made in God’s image then something here is surely amiss, for there is nothing of God in this”(http://www.trans-siberian.com/lyrics_story/lost_xmas_eve_lyrics-08.php). Doesn’t that sound like so much of life, and certainly life on the broad road to destruction, noted in Matthew 7? Yet (without giving much away) because the angel was sent on a mission to find something, he was ultimately also able to bring this man healing. The man did not get there on his own, rather he was found and brought to redemption and reconciliation despite himself.
God makes his message clear, if we pay attention. In Luke 15 Jesus tells two parables which compare the kingdom of heaven to a search for something that is lost, saying that there is rejoicing in heaven when a lost sinner is found. In Luke 19:10 Jesus says that he, “is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Last spring and fall KLove, the national Christian radio network, hosted a pledge drive to enable each station to stay on the air. Throughout the several day long fundraiser stories were aired of people whose lives were changed simply because of KLove. Numerous accounts were told of individuals who were on the brink of suicide when they turned on the radio one last time, and because they heard the message of God’s love or forgiveness in a single song, their lives were completely changed. Other stories were told of homeless men and women who happened to hear a single KLove song and turned their hearts to God, and began to be able to change their lives and move toward healing slowly but surely. Did these people find the narrow path to God? No. Each one of them said something similar to, “I just so happened to turn on the radio, I’ve never even heard this station before.” They did not find – they were found. And their footsteps have turned toward God.
What a powerful lesson. Do not despair to think that few of us will ever find God. Thankfully, He is capable of finding everyone, and to do so is His heart’s desire.