Straight, narrow, and simple
A LITTLE brown dog on a leash added the dimension of simplicity to my understanding of that narrow way of which Christ Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the Mount: ``Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.''1 The dog seemed confused and indecisive walking across the wide parking lot, darting left then right, zigzagging ahead, progressing slowly despite much motion, constantly looking for direction. But as soon as we reached the narrow sidewalk, all confusion vanished. The way was simplified. She walked straight ahead, happy and confident. Simplicity marked the teachings of Jesus. He spoke of purity and peace making, forgiveness and fidelity, and above all, love. He drew profound lessons of spirituality from simple things like a mustard seed and fertile soil, candlelight and lilies. Yet such simplicity did not lack the might of divine authority, for he healed the sick, redeemed the sinner, raised the dead, and taught his followers to go and do likewise. He left no bewildering options to those who wanted to follow him. He declared simply, ``I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.''2
Confusing choices in our lives are significantly simplified when we begin to understand that the life of Christ Jesus exemplifies the way for each of us. Jesus' way is the path that lies straight ahead to pure Christliness, its borders clearly marked by such God-derived qualities as compassion, honesty, and purity. Well springs of spirituality in thought harmonize our lives. Mary Baker Eddy,3 who knew that the sinless Jesus blazed the way for all humanity, emphasized the importance of Christlike purity with straightforward simplicity. ``The way to escape the misery of sin is to cease sinning,'' she wrote. ``There is no other way.''4
The sinless, Christly way directs our lives to good--good thinking, good acting, and good work. It requires obedience to the Ten Commandments and a willingness to find out what Jesus taught and how to follow him. It does not take away individual rights of decisionmaking but provides a firm foundation on which to make decisions. It shows that those who do not lie, cheat, or steal also do not suffer the consequences of such actions. Those who maintain high moral standards are relieved of the great risks that inevitably accompany immorality. Those who refuse drugs or alcohol simply do not suffer the tragic complications that follow their use. Such a Christian standard of character and behavior, although narrow enough to exclude any divergence, does not burden one with limitations. Instead, it leads to freedom from destructive habits and lifts the crushing weight of accumulated guilt and self-condemnation.
Simplicity does not necessarily mean ease. Sometimes strength is required to simplify one's life by expressing the purity of the divine nature. But it's natural to be good, because our true selfhood is good--God's blessed, unfallen spiritual image. This is who we really are. So wrongdoing isn't normal or natural to us, and it's never beneficial. Knowing this, we won't be deceived into believing that the way is too narrow, too exclusive, too far out of reach, too pious, or that we are too late to find it. Paul encouraged his listeners to keep their priorities straight and simple. He said, ``I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.''5
If we should find ourselves in a broad fast lane, pursuing a course that has no boundaries defined by the Christ, being sideswiped by the crowds of fears and frustrations that always travel there, we can immediately change our route and take the straight and narrow way. We are never truly separated from God or from His direction. Isaiah said, ``Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.''6
If we are willing to listen to that divine direction and obey it, the way is simplified. The more we make the effort to travel the simple Christlike way, the more natural it becomes. We recognize the boundaries of protection and we walk resolutely forward to a life that is worthwhile, with confidence and joy restored. Ultimately we have no choice. We cannot--nor would we want to--escape divine law or the reality of our being as God's upright and satisfied likeness.
1Matthew 7:14. 2John 14:6. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 327. 5II Corinthians 11:3. 6Isaiah 30:21. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Proverbs 4:26