A popular recruiting jingle by the Army was “be all that you can be.” It was an attempt to show a tangible connection between high achievement and service in the Army. Aim high; set lofty goals. Don’t settle for something less, or something that demands little.
With those six little words — be all that you can be — they are encouraging young men and women to strive to fulfill their potential.
Many of us strive to achieve in all sorts of ways. You might be one of those people. And most of us strongly encourage our children to do just that. So many of us get extra academic degrees, put in extra time at work hoping to get a promotion and we exercise regularly.
But how about in matters of faith? Can we say that we want to achieve in faith to the same extent that we want to achieve in other ways? Do we want to be the best we can be when it comes to following Jesus, or serving God, or doing the right thing? Or would we rather settle for less? Do we aim high when it comes to many areas of our lives then aim much lower when it comes to our faith?
In the gospel as told by Luke, Jesus tells us: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” The story doesn’t say that the gate is closed. Nor does it say that we can’t all fit on the other side. It does say that it is narrow and maybe that’s a clue to understanding this passage. Part of the problem arises when we only think of this passage in terms of what happens after our earthly lives have ended. But if we think of the other side of the gate being the kingdom or life with and in God or communion with the divine, then the passage takes on a somewhat deeper meaning.
Then “striving to enter the narrow gate” becomes much more about focusing on those things that keep us securely connected to our God, those things that unite us most perfectly to our Lord. The truth is a life for, in and with God does not happen purely by accident. Rather, it comes about when we strive to be the best that we can be — when we strive to embrace and live as the authentic person God calls us to be. It comes to us when we live out the very things Jesus has shown us in a perfect way.
We’ll probably never fully step through the narrow gate, or share in God’s life in the most intimate way. We may never experience the fullness of life God wants for each of us if we simply settle, aiming low, or if we think that loving a little and giving a little and forgiving a little is enough.
We can truly strive to absolutely “be the best we can be” when it comes to every God-thing: love, mercy, kindness, generosity, compassion and forgiveness. Then we can be confident of every good thing awaiting us when our God takes our hand and leads us through the gate today, tomorrow and into eternity.