The Narrow Road to Freedom
FEW intelligent people dispute that the universe is governed by natural laws. These laws control everything from tiny atoms to mighty galaxies containing billions of stars. Were it otherwise, there could be no planning and no understanding; life itself could not exist. By comprehending natural laws and working with them, man has been able to accomplish astounding feats, such as walking on the moon and beaming color pictures from any place on earth or even from beyond earth’s atmosphere onto the television screens in our homes.
But what about moral laws? Is adherence to them just as beneficial and fruitful? Many seem to feel that there are no moral laws and choose a permissive philosophy or religion that fits their own desires.
There are some, though, who choose another way, the ‘narrow way that leads to life’ as outlined in the Bible. We should not be surprised that this is the choice of only the minority, for Jesus said of the narrow way: “Few are the ones finding it.” (Matthew 7:14) Why just a few?
Because the narrow path is restricted by God’s laws and principles. It would appeal only to someone sincerely desiring to conform his life to God’s standards. In sharp contrast with the broad road, which gives the illusion of freedom but in reality enslaves, the narrow road, which seems restrictive, sets a person free in every important respect. Its boundaries are set by “the perfect law that belongs to freedom.”—James 1:25.
How the Narrow Way Liberates
True, it is not always easy to stay on the narrow way. Every living human is imperfect and has an inherited tendency toward wrongdoing. So a person might be inclined to stray a little. Nonetheless, the benefits of sticking with ‘the cramped road’ are worth any needed self-discipline or adjustments, for God ‘teaches us to benefit ourselves.’—Isaiah 48:17; Romans 3:23.
To illustrate: Wise parents map out a dietary ‘cramped road’ for their children. This sometimes means being firm at mealtimes. But when the children grow older, they will appreciate their parents’ loving discipline. As adults, they will have developed a taste for healthy food. And the broad variety of nutritious food available will preclude their ever feeling restricted.
In a spiritual way, God does the same with those on the narrow road leading to life. He nurtures within meek ones wholesome desires that lead to happiness and true freedom. This he does by providing his Word, the Bible. Additionally, he invites us to pray for his spirit to help us, and he commands us to associate with fellow Christians, who can encourage us to keep on the narrow path. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Yes, God is love, and this supreme quality underlies his objectives and all his methods.—1 John 4:8.
When love, peace, goodness, self-control, and other fruits of God’s spirit prevail, the narrow road does not seem restrictive. As the scripture says, “against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) “Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) Even now, genuine Christians are getting a taste of this freedom. They are free from many of the fears afflicting people today, such as fear of the future and a superstitious fear of death. How thrilling to contemplate the future when “the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea”! (Isaiah 11:9) Then, even fear of crime will be no more. Locks and bars will be gone forever. All will feel free and safe—day and night, at home and outdoors. That will be freedom indeed!
We Are Assured of God’s Help
True, living by God’s standards takes effort, yet “his commandments are not burdensome,” even for imperfect humans. (1 John 5:3) As we adjust to the narrow way and feel the benefits of walking on it, we develop a growing dislike for the ways and the thinking that characterize those on the broad road. (Psalm 97:10) Obeying God’s law appeals to the better nature in all of us. Instead of “the pain of heart” and “sheer breakdown of spirit” that are characteristic of many, God promises: “Look! My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart.” Yes, a heart trained by Jehovah is joyful and free.—Isaiah 65:14.
Jesus died to make real freedom possible for us. The Bible says: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Now, as the King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, Jesus is administering the benefits of that sacrifice. Shortly, after “the great tribulation,” when the broad road and those on it will come to their end, he will patiently begin guiding obedient mankind along the remainder of the narrow way right to its end, human perfection. (Revelation 7:14-17; Matthew 24:21, 29-31) At last we will experience the realization of the grand promise: “Creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This God-given freedom cannot be surpassed. Even death will be done away with.—Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:3, 4.
By seeing and understanding clearly where the narrow road leads, a person is better able to choose this path and keep walking along it. Young ones in particular are helped not to be shortsighted and not to chafe at what they regard as restrictions imposed by God’s standards. They learn to see these as a proof of God’s love and as a shield against the evils of the broad road. (Hebrews 12:5, 6) Of course, one needs to be patient, remembering that it takes time to develop godly qualities and desires, just as it takes time for a fruit tree to produce good fruit. But the tree will produce if it is cultivated and watered.
So study God’s Word, associate with other Christians, and “pray incessantly” for holy spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Trust God to help you “make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6) But is all of this practical? Does it really work? Yes, it worked for Tom as well as for Mary, who were mentioned in the previous article.
They Stopped Walking on the Broad Road
Tom writes: “In the mid-70’s, we came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses when one of them called at our home. The discussion led to a study of the Bible. Step-by-step I began to clean up my life. I was baptized in 1982 and am now serving in the local congregation. Our son too is now baptized. I thank my wife for putting up with me for all those years before I learned the truth. And above all I thank Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus, for all they have given us and for the hope we now have for the future.”
And what about Mary? Well, she felt that God would never forgive her, but she wanted to learn about him for the sake of her children. When she heard that Jehovah’s Witnesses were teaching her neighbor the Bible, she too asked for help. However, her ingrained bad habits made progress difficult. The study swung through highs and lows. Her little seven-year-old daughter, though, kept her going. “Come on, Mom. You can do it!” she would say. Then Mary would try harder.
When her common-law husband, also a drug abuser, returned home, he too joined in the study. Eventually both conquered their bad habits. Then, after legalizing their marriage and submitting to baptism, they experienced great happiness and felt like a real family for the first time. Sadly, AIDS finally took Mary’s life, but she died with her heart fixed on the Bible’s promise of a resurrection and life on a paradise earth, cleansed of every trace of the malignant broad road.
Yes, it is possible to get off the broad and spacious road that leads to destruction. Christ Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Why not, then, resolve to set your feet on the narrow path that leads to life? By taking to heart and applying what you learn from God’s Word, you may personally experience the Bible’s heartwarming promise: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.