Entering the Narrow Way Leading to Life
This may seem like an odd post, but stick with me. I’m a history buff. I really enjoy reading about historical events and I also enjoy reading good biographies about famous people because they help bring the reality of historical events to life.
Lately, I’ve been doing some reading about some of Hollywood’s elite of decades past, people who had talent and because of it, became extremely recognizable throughout the world. Joan Crawford and Clara Bow come to mind. These women changed much about the way society viewed women in general, for good or ill. They brought an unmistakable allure to the screen and people either loved or hated them because of it.
In the case of Clara Bow, her talent was absolutely undeniable and could very well have come from the terrible things she suffered as a child. Growing up in a stench of a tenement in New York City, her father abandoned the family and her mother was mentally ill, eventually being confined to a mental institution. In fact, once her mother learned that her daughter Clara had designs of becoming an actress, she tried to kill her several times because she believed that actors go straight to hell.
After her mother was placed in the same mental institution that her mother (Clara’s grandmother) had been placed in, the father sexually abused Clara. Eventually though, Clara found her way to Hollywood because of a contest she won and began her path to fame and fortune. Like Lon Chaney, she also seemed to not care about the trappings of Hollywood. She did what she did as a means of survival and like Joan Crawford, clawed her way out of abject poverty.
It is difficult for me to truly appreciate how bad life must have been for people during the 1910’s and 1920’s. There was no welfare, no government programs to help people stuck in poverty. Clara’s mother had resorted to taking care of many “uncles” in their tenement in order to meet the rent and pay for groceries (with Clara locked in a closet during those times). The times were known as the “roaring twenties” because of the excesses, along with Prohibition, which only spawned one speak-easy after another. Though it was now illegal, people were not about to give up their liquor or their good times.
Clara Bow eventually became a huge star, but like all stars, began to fade dramatically with the onset of the “talkies” and because of all the mental and emotional baggage she carried with her. It eventually crushed her. Her husband placed her in a sanitarium for mental health where she received all sorts of treatments, including electroshock therapy. Eventually, she was released and traveled back to the West Coast where she lived in a very modest home in Culver City, CA, alone as a near-total recluse. It was a far cry from the opulent lifestyle she had once known.
Ultimately, Clara Bow died of a heart attack, alone in her home after watching an episode of a TV western starring a man she had once had an affair with, Gary Cooper. While alive, most of Hollywood shunned Clara Bow because of where she had come from and the way in which she did not necessarily hide her bohemian lifestyle. This made Hollywood’s elite believe they were somehow better though in many cases, they were involved in things far worse, but did their best to cover them over with the help of the studios to which they were enslaved.
The tragedy that was Clara Bow is played out daily with the deaths of roughly 150,000 people throughout the world. Most are not famous and are simply average people we pass on the street or in our cars. We only know about Clara Bow because she became famous. How many others had even more tragic lives but never became famous enough for the world to learn of them? Does your heart not bleed for them?
So why am I talking about people like Clara Bow? Because they are human beings who were in desperate need of a Savior! Their lives were unbearably difficult and filled with pain from nearly the moment of their birth. In Clara’s case, her mother wanted so badly to die (along with her newly born baby girl) because of the terrible heat wave that New York City was experiencing at the time that she didn’t even fill out a birth certificate for Clara. Other babies she carried died before birth.
I honestly cannot imagine how terrible life was for so many in those days, or for that matter, in these days. The “Roaring Twenties” ultimately gave way to the Stock Market crash and America’s Depression, casting multitudes into even more severe and dire straights economically and financially. Moral repercussions also became part of the picture as well. Some turned to God, but most did not.
How do you tell those people about Jesus? How do you tell them that God loves and cares for them? As a Christian of course, I realize that we are responsible for our own pain in many cases. We are born into this world as sinners and that puts us on the outs with God at the very beginning. However, for people like Clara Bow, who come into this world with a tremendous background of evil that happens to them, they seem to go from the frying pan directly into the fire. Because of the terribly large holes in their lives, they try in vain to fill those holes with fame, fortune, or the love of others. They always seem to be missing the boat, or taking the wrong path in life. Do you know people like that personally? Does not your heart go out to them? I hope so.
We want people to understand how much God loves them. His love still reaches out toward all people. The Clara Bows; the famous and not. Those born in tragedy, those abused by parents and others, and those who are never “discovered” for any talent they might possess. They are human beings, all loved by God. Yet, how many go through this life never coming to understand just how much they are loved? Instead, they constantly look in all the wrong places for love that only God can provide. Satan simply has way too many traps and Hollywood is probably one of his biggest and best.
In the end, the truth of the matter is that Clara Bow made it and made it big. Yet, she was not able to become bigger than the problems she carried with her. Her life was a complete tragedy, yet God loved her still, though it’s doubtful she ever understood or received His love.
There are all sorts of people living around you and me whom God loves. They may be living in abject poverty or they may seem to have everything they could possibly want. Yet, they have never understood the truth that there are two paths in life from which they must choose. The one path is wide and leads to destruction because it leads away from God and His gift of eternal life. The other path is narrow and leads to eternal life.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it! (Matthew 7:13-14)
Notice that in the above text, Jesus speaks of a “gate” and a “path” (or “way”). Have you ever considered that fact? To enter into through a gate means to begin walking along the path that is beyond the gate. The gate is only the entry way. The path or way that leads from the gate is how a person lives after they enter onto that path by entering through a particular gate. It is not inaccurate to say that all people are born onto the wide path that leads to destruction and they must decide to move from that path onto the narrow path that leads to life eternal. Jesus is telling us that there are few who will find that narrow path, compared to the multitudes who remain on the wide path that leads to eternal death. Jesus never preached universalism, the belief that all people will find salvation.
There are a number of things that Jesus is stating here and those hearing Him in Person would have understood exactly what He meant. The fact that we have western mindsets and are some 2,000 years removed from His physical life makes it more difficult for us to comprehend His meaning. Dr. Thomas L. Constable and others help us with it.
The Old Testament contains several references to diverging ways that force the traveler to choose between two paths (e.g., Deut. 30:15, 19; Ps. 1; Jer. 21:8). The AV translation “straight” is a bit misleading. That translation reflected the Latin strictum meaning narrow, and it probably contributed to the common idea of “the straight and narrow.” However, the Greek word stene clearly means “narrow” as contrasted with broad. The word “small” (v. 14, Gr. tethlimmene) relates closely to the Greek word thlipsis, meaning “tribulation.” Thus, Jesus was saying that the narrow restricting gate has connections with persecution, a major theme in Matthew’s Gospel (cf. 5:10-12, 44; 10:16-39; 11:11-12; 24:4-13; Acts 14:22). 
The path to eternal life is replete with persecution. Why? Simply for being a Christian because we know that the world belongs to Satan for the time being and he exercises great power. He uses many things to ensnare and bring down people, especially Christians.
But isn’t it interesting how people like Clara Bow would likely believe that their lives are filled with a type of “persecution” because of all they suffered and how much they overcame? The truth is that unless she knew Jesus as Savior, she was on the wide path that leads to destruction and the only thing that would change that would be for her to have changed paths.
I’m not saying that had she received salvation, all her problems in this life would have disappeared. She might have experienced more in other areas. I’m saying that she would have gone from living life on the wide road that leads to destruction to life on the narrow road that leads to life eternal.
Every day people die. Most of them, many of us have never heard of before. The ones we have heard of usually remind us that another person who does not know Jesus has slipped into eternity. All we can do for them at that point is mourn and feel helpless.
We live in a very tragic society today. It is filled to overflowing with people who are dying and on their way to hell because of the path they are on. The world is filled with hurting people who do not know Jesus, who do not understand the simplicity of the Gospel, who are not truly aware that Someone came, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death (while remaining free from sin Himself), and rose from the dead three days later. This He did because of the immense amount of love He has for all people.
Yet too often, His love is rejected, spurned, or fully misunderstood. Either people never get the message, they are confused about the message, or they couldn’t care less about that message. Does your heart not hurt for these people, whether it’s Clara Bow or Joe Schmoe?
People need the Lord. We must be adamant in telling people about the two paths in this life, warning them away from the broad path they are on, so that they will remove themselves to the narrow. Though there will be persecution and hardship on the narrow, the end of that path results in eternal life, unlike the broad path.
 Dr. Thomas L. Constable’s Notes on Matthew (2015), p. 139
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: clara bow, joan crawford, matthew 7, narrow gate, wide path.