Editor's Note: Today we welcome Kimberly Cook to our family of contributors. She's a wife, mom, freelance writer, and blogger. Kimberly blogs about faith, art, and motherhood at Lion of Design. She has a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology and a Bachelor of Science in Mental Health. We're excited to have her on-board and know you'll enjoy her writing! -SR

Is the Bar to Heaven Really that Low?

The good news is that we are all welcome into heaven, the gates are now open, and there is "a way, truth, and life" to help us get there!  This is beautiful and incredibly reassuring.  However, it is not easy, as we are told to "enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it" (Mt 7:13).

As human beings, we desire absolute security and it is difficult for us to swallow the idea of many people entering through the gate of destruction.  This large margin encroaches on our own chances of entering through the narrow gate.  Yet, how many of us actually seek that narrow gate while we are living?  It seems that we are more comfortable in finding a neighbor who is blatantly traveling on the broad path and take comfort in our distance from him.

In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector it was the Pharisee who did not walk away justified by God even though he prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector." (Lk 18:11)

How often when posed with the question of our own salvation do we respond much like the Pharisee saying, "I am a good person. I mean, it's not like I ever killed anyone."

Is the bar to heaven really that low?  Could the whole Bible have been summed up under one commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" (not listed until 5th)?  Of course not.  We are told to love the Lord above all else and our neighbor as our self (Lk 10:27).  This certainly puts a damper on being able to throw our neighbor under the bus in order to make our own salvation look more promising.

In all other aspects of life we would not expect a subtractive answer to be sufficient.  For example, if a mom leaves a chore list for her children and upon coming home the children say they did not do any of those chores, but at least they did not set the house on fire, would the mom be pleased?  If a boss asked an employee to accomplish a certain number of tasks before the work day's end and the employee, doing none of these, tells the boss that at least he is not embezzling money from the company, would the boss be pleased?

This is the same way that I look at us telling God that we did not pay attention to any of His commandments but at least we didn't kill anyone, and expecting a pat on the back.

What is the narrow path? How can I expect to travel it without comparing myself to others who are worse than me, or Christ, who is infinitely better than me?  The answer is always of course to look higher and set the bar higher, and there is no higher than Christ.

This is a great and glorious calling because all of our lives we seek to be like those whom we hold to be great—our parents, leaders, heroes of the past. However, all of these people are capable of failure and of dropping the bar for us.

Christ, on the other hand, is incapable of lowering the bar and can never fall. He will always hold the most compassionate and loving standard for us to follow. Christ did not throw His neighbor under the bus for the sake of looking better Himself: He died for that neighbor.

We can often fall into the trap of looking at our own faith as a "chore list" from a parent, or a set of "tasks" to accomplish for our employer.  This mundane perspective may lead us to pursue the truth with just as much heart as we did the vacuuming (hyperspeed and without moving anything) and the sales pitch (like we were selling cheap wine to a connoisseur).

The narrow path is not found in seeking out our salvation halfheartedly, but rather to want it so much that we are moved to "fear and trembling" because of the good work that God is working in us; a work far greater than we alone are capable (Phil 2:12-13).

The narrow path is a question.  Not a question of what we are not doing (killing someone), but what we are doing (loving the Lord with our whole heart, soul, strength).  The road is not paved with intention, but with action, because it's stones were laid with the sacrifice of the most perfect and innocent life...freely given...freely received.

Copyright 2013 Kimberly Cook