Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road is easy
that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.
For the gate is narrow and the road is hard
that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

I felt the looks before I saw them.

It was hot. I had been home all day with my girls doing the usual picking up, switching laundry, tending dinner, making phone calls, refereeing children stuff with which most moms are familiar. It wasn’t a bad day, just a tiring one.

My husband was away for a meeting, so I was flying solo that evening. The baby had the angriest diaper rash I’d ever seen so I dragged all three girls to the dollar store in town on an emergency mission for extra-strength diaper cream. Forget my crunchy hippie-dippy remedies, this called for Desitin NOW.

I put the baby in the car seat without pants or shoes and absolutely wailing. The other two had been playing outside in the unreasonable heat and were sweaty. My 7 year-old had actual marks on her face where the sweat had dripped down her cheeks and wiped away the dirt in wavy streaks. I had visible boob-sweat and realized too late that my homemade deodorant may not have been designed for the kind of day I was having. We looked…rough.

If I had been a bystander and seen us walk in—an actual hot mess—I might have stared. Ten years ago, when I was a teacher but not yet a mother, I know I would have judged.

I immediately felt eyes on us. A teenage boy and his mother literally stopped dead in their tracks when we walked in. Another middle-aged woman I knew from town winked and just kept on walking.

As I swiftly and efficiently (LOL) located the magic cream and pushed the tiny yellow cart to the checkout, a kindly older lady made eye contact with me and said, “You go ahead, dear. You look like you’re in a hurry.” I half died, but managed to choke out profuse thanks and scooted that cart and two flip-flop shuffling children to the front of the line.

It dawned on me as I drove home, squirming from the back sweat now dripping down into my waistband, that I had just experienced grace. I felt embarrassed for a split second, but that was quickly replaced with gratitude. I was proud of myself, because I finally extended myself the same grace I usually extend to others—I’m often the line cut-ee, but not the line cutter.

I’ve witnessed a lot of ugliness lately, mostly on social media. It seems many Christians feel like others are “cutting the line” and are being extended unfair advantages (what others might call equality). I see Matthew 7:13-14 often quoted as a means for this positional jockeying. Jesus’ offers an explanation for how we enter the kingdom of God: it’s not easy, and it’s counter to what society often teaches. It might give some people anxiety to think that if the gate is narrow, maybe not everyone can enter.

The verse just before it is Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is grace. This is our calling: treating others as good as—or better than—we treat ourselves. Even when they don’t deserve it. Especially when they don’t deserve it. This is the closest I can get my small human brain to comprehending God’s love for us.

We will not get to heaven faster by cutting in front of others, thinking that because we went to church more or for longer or gave more in the collection plate we somehow deserve it more or sooner. We get to heaven by grace, because God loves us. And here’s the best news of all: the gate is wide enough for everyone.

Insight and inspiration:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

The Invitation:

How have you experienced grace? How have you extended grace?

But small is the gate

Christina Krost
Christina Krost is a United Methodist pastor’s wife, mother, educator, and Earth care advocate working for Faith in Place, the Illinois Affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light. She lives with her husband and three daughters in rural Illinois and blogs at 5Matches.com. When she’s not working, chasing children, or helping minister to churches she enjoys reading, writing, and sneaking fair trade chocolate in her closet so she doesn’t have to share.
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