“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14 NASB)
Once in a while Beth and I had the chance to show off the streets and landmarks of Vienna. After our arrival we enjoyed wandering the streets and small byways to discover hidden parts of that fascinating city. The history, stories of wars, rulers, plagues and Christianity were fascinating.
One day we once again wore our feet to a frazzle. A visitor from the USA wanted to fill a couple hours with a tour of the city before heading off to the airport. Camera in hand we started in the center, at Stephan’s Dom, and worked our way out, across and around the center of the city. Along the Graben, up Kohlmarkt, through the Hofburg, by the Parliament and Rathaus we explained each building and what history we could remember.
Tourists lined the streets and flashed photos of bits and pieces of history and studied their maps carefully. You can usually tell Americans are nearby. They have a tendency to be very boisterous and excited about the sights, sounds and smells they experience. After you’ve lived there for a while you start telling your visitors to shush, or talk softly.
At the archaeological ruins we overhead some Americans trying to figure which way to go. I offered to help and explained how to traverse the winding streets to their destination. I’m sure everyone in the square could hear their questions and their shouts of thanks when they walked off into the distance.
A little tired and hungry we worked our way over for lunch at a cozy restaurant with an entertaining corner view and good food. The cushioned seats provided a respite for our tired feet and a refreshing meal. The German speaking waitress, from Russia, served us in record time. I went back later and found the restaurant out of business.
Ready to tackle a little more of the city we wove our way through the narrow passage by the Greek Church. Up the stairs is an ornate church beside one of the historic restaurants of the city. Mark Twain loved to visit Vienna and frequented this out of the way eatery. If you don’t know the city you can walk all around and never know it’s there with all its delicacies. We ate there once. Mark Twain wasn’t there but the food was good.
It’s the same way with life. We search here and there to find something of value. We read the rambling theology of men and women. We trudge along the highway, lined with tomes dedicated to explaining God’s message to the world, and miss the narrow country road. We’re looking for a highway with big signs and lights. What we need is a narrow passage with a simple sign, salvation.
Many visitors crisscross Vienna and fail to discover that historic restaurant and church. An abundant number of feet have been wearied without noticing beautiful artwork and statues hidden away in the narrow passages. When we visited these areas we didn’t see many tourists but we enjoyed the beauty. The beauty of Vienna wasn’t found on Kärntner Straße, with the modern facades and stores, but in the small alleys and passageways.
Salvation is a gift of God’s grace to a world in need. It’s not found in the popular theology of the day but in the narrow words of Scripture. It’s here we read Job’s confession of understanding and repentance. It’s the Shepherd we discover in a small Psalm of comfort. It was in the narrow cells of a prison that a guard discovered the wonder of faith and praise.
We try to be broad minded but the message is narrow minded. We want to be all encompassing but those who understand are few. It’s a contradiction. God wants all men to be saved but only a small number will come. It’s the grace of God, the call of a father to his children, that single recognizable voice, which reaches our heart and brings us home.
Let’s stop trying to make a foot path into a highway. Preach the word clearly, the narrow message, so those who are searching will find the path. Only a guide who has already discovered the path can show others the way.