One Way to Look at It: Gates

Gates are meant to keep things separated, what is out from what is in.  Arequipa is full of gates.  People have gates outside their front doors so that they can exit and see who has come to call before actually allowing that person to enter.  Driveways are almost nonexistent because car owners prefer a locked door protecting their possession rather than relying on the honesty of all passers-by.  People even lock the car doors while they drive for fear that someone will open it and snatch their belongings right out of their hands.  As a big city with enough stealing, the society as a whole has become good at circling the wagons and protecting what is “mine” and keeping away what is not.  
Gates are meant to keep things separated.
I think we have missed the meaning of this too-familiar passage:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
— Jesus, Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)

This is when Jesus declares Simon's name to be Peter, which is almost identical to the word for Rock.  Peter is known for his impulsive actions.  He dives in before he understands what is going on.  He makes grand statements about Jesus’ identity, then chides Him for His actions.  He walks out on water just because Jesus said it was possible.  I like Peter, because he is anything but idle, even if his gut instinct isn’t right half the time.  He was one of Jesus’ very best friends, likely because of his personality rather than in spite of it.  But he seems anything but solid, as the basis for a church.  

Except that when gates are in place to keep things separated, because then you need courage driven by sheer love and determination.

All too often, the mental image we get from this passage is something along the lines of “Oh, good.  If people want to break free from their sinful life, they will be able to.  And they know where to find this church built on a rock if they really want out.”  Church, that is the wrong way to look at it.

I now picture people being dragged into the darkness, sometimes resisting, sometimes not realizing what is going on, sometimes drawn by their own desires.  They are pulled until they are inside that gate and it clangs shut.  They are trapped by forces that want them in a bad place.  They might want to struggle against it, might even succeed (We love those stories, don’t we?), but we would never point the finger of fault at them for being stuck, broken, helpless, even clueless.

Those gates are meant to keep us separated. 

I picture my own friends who still don’t follow Christ.  Rather than seeing them as having defiant hearts and weapons drawn should I approach them with the idea of faith, I see them as caught, held, dragged down by all the things that we shouldn’t have to fight against.  If I were walking with my friend and an animal attacked her, I would join in the fight to help free her.  It would make no sense to wait for her to battle free so that I could help her heal. 

I cannot let gates separate us.

Jesus said the gates of Hades (which represents death) can’t handle His Church.  If His Church were like Peter, we would hear those words, draw our swords and storm the gates.  I can just picture Peter declaring “These people are NOT YOURS!!!” and charging at the gates to break them wide open.  Why?  Because Jesus said it was possible.  And Jesus said He could build a whole church on this attitude, and when that church takes action, there’s no stopping it. It’s not about being available.  It’s about being determined that sin and death have been stripped of their power and there is no way that we are going to sit idly by and watch them continue wielding it.
Jesus died to remove the veil that separated us from God.  We should not let gates trap any of His created children from being able to follow Him.