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I’ll never forget how stunned I was when I learned something about what this really means. Let me back up… Matthew 16:18 says, “…I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” I realize there is much controversy about what hell is, and whether it is an after-life experience or whether it is here and now. Both may be true. But the point I am about to address is relevant in any case.

So what I learned several years ago was that gates are not marching toward us, attacking at every opportunity. No. Gates just sit there. They are not on the offensive, so we, the church, do not have to be so defensive. (There’s a lot to think about right there.) But somehow the church is trying to bust through the gates – or at least we should be. But why on earth would we want to do that? Gates should be there to protect us, right? They should keep us out, and we should be grateful for them!

But gates also keep things and people in, and that’s the point I want to make. That is what made my eyes fly open the other morning. What if behind those gates there is a prison camp? A concentraion camp? This is my new alarming thought. There are people behind those gates that we are here to rescue. There are people who are in need of immediate, substantial help. They may be victimized, they may live in poverty, they may be addicted to any number of substances or behaviors, they may be despondent, lonely, or confused. To one degree or another, they are living on the side of death more than on the side of life. And there is a gate that is keeping them in.

This rescue looks like love. It looks like acceptance and sacrifice and service. We cannot hold the attitude, as is humorously depicted in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, “I got to do for me and mine!” It’s about providing a meal or a room or transportation to one whose lifestyle is different from ours. It’s about welcoming foreigners and showing hospitality to one who cannot return the favor. It’s about encouraging one who is disappointed. It’s messy, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s inconvenient. But it’s about showing others what God really thinks of them, that they are especially thought of and loved without hesitation. Jesus did not deny anyone who needed help, no matter what that help looked like. May we go and do likewise, knowing the gates will open wide. May my my eyes be open to opportunities. May my heart be open to love.

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