I am thankful for gates. This past Saturday, my family and I went to the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, and there were a number of times when I felt appreciation for gates and fencing that I trusted were strong enough to keep the animals away from us. There was a male and female lion who were enjoying the meat of a piece of dead carcase. There was a menacing tiger pacing around his enclosure. There was a rhinoceros standing near what appeared be her offspring basking in the sun. I was quite thankful for gates and fencing that held.
Prior to my election as Pastor at Life Christian Church in Lansing, I worked as a teacher for the Tennessee Department of Corrections. I met people who needed to be confined, at least for a time, as punishment for their criminal activities. Some of them were outright menaces to the general public. I was thankful for chain link fencing and razor wire that successfully kept felons from escaping their confinement.
I am intrigued by the fact that in Matthew 16:18 Jesus told Peter, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” his church. I have often heard this applied in the sense that the devil and his cohorts cannot be victorious when attacking the church, but gates aren’t offensive weapons. They are designed to keep the opposing forces out. In other words, this verse is not telling us Satan’s forces cannot defeat us (though that is true); it’s actually saying the gates of hell won’t hold when the Church encroaches on their territory. We are the male and female lion licking our chops after enjoying the meat of the dead carcase. We are the pacing tiger. We are the powerful rhinoceros. Yet, hell’s gates won’t be able to hold against the Church’s forceful attack. They can’t stop the Church!