a road less traveled
“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
These three short phrases are some of the most well-known lines of poetry. Maybe it reminds you of your early school years, or maybe someone quoted it as a form of advice once. Regardless, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is one of the most widely read and recalled poems of the last century. So, we must ask ourselves, “why?” Why do our hearts cling to the road less traveled?
As Christians, the answer is simple—when we surrendered our lives to Jesus, He set us apart from this world, and our hearts long for the road less traveled—the road toward eternal life; the road marked by holy separation.
In Revelation 2:12–17, we are told about the first century church of Pergamum. This church, like many churches today, struggled with worldliness. Some and probably most of the Christians in the church of Pergamum truly loved the Lord Jesus, yet the congregation was tolerating teachings that promoted sinful, worldly living.
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”
Jesus acknowledges that some of the people in the church “hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith,” but others did not, for Jesus referred to Pergamum as the city “where Satan dwells.” Although they lived in a city that did not embrace Christ, Jesus demanded that they be holy and separated from it. With His two-edged sword, He would separate the holy from the sinful.
Holiness is a theme that runs throughout Scripture. Whether it’s the Old Testament or the New Testament, the Bible continually tells us to live holy and separate from the sinful ways of the world. We see this call to holiness as a result of being set apart—“be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26). If you have been saved by Jesus, you have been made new, set apart from others, and are called to live a life marked by holiness.
Unfortunately, being marked by holiness is not a permanent condition while living on Earth. Through salvation, we are sanctified by Christ, but we are also being continually sanctified for the rest of our lives until the day we are reunited with Jesus. We live in a broken world, and we are all broken people. That brokenness continually hinders our holy separation from the world and in turn separates us from God Himself.
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.”
In verse 14, Jesus confronted the members of the church regarding their false teachings—”the teaching of Balaam”—because it was through these teachings that people were being led into sin. The church was a stumbling block for the believers! Some of the teachers at Pergamum were teaching false doctrines that promoted the complete opposite of what the Bible instructed. When you are instructed wrong, you may believe wrong; and when you believe wrong, you will act wrong. So, Jesus called them to repent and believe right, so they may act right.
In His letter to the church, Jesus demanded that they repent and separate themselves from the world because ultimately the road toward eternal life is one marked by holy separation.
“Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”
Repentance is the heart of Christianity. We repent to be saved, but then we also continually repent to stay close to God. Sin hinders our relationship with God, but repentance can restore that relationship, too. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7–9). We can trust that when we repent, we will be restored to God and return to living in holy separation.
When we live in right relationship with God—when we live in holy separation—He rewards us. He rewards us with temporal sustenance and with eternal salvation.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna. And I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’”
Manna is what the Lord fed His people in the wilderness as Moses led them to the Promised Land. It was a means of physical nourishment for His people, but even more so, and in this passage, Jesus is speaking of spiritual nourishment. When we live close to Him, we are spiritually nourished by the eternal promises of His Scriptures.
And even greater than temporal sustenance, holy separation promises us eternal salvation. Our “names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20) and written in “the book of life” (Revelation 20:15). Because our names are written in Heaven, we can look toward the day when we will live in complete perfection—glorification. The day when we are with Christ in Heaven and made completely holy and separated from the sin of this world.
It is to that day, to the road less traveled, that we look.