Not long ago I visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and marvelled under Michelangelo’s magnificent dome at the fragmented scripture comprising the inscription around its base. The inscription reads, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.” excerpted from Matthew 16:18-20. There wasn’t enough room for the entire text of verse 18 which reads (according to the NIV), “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Pretty impressive, particularly when gazing up into that dome.
A year later Joe Stowell stood in front of a cave called “the Gates of Hell” on a Day of Discovery broadcast. I then realized that there is a real place called the Gates of Hell, and the scripture of Matthew 16 was much more graphic—more ‘real’.
Then I came across the following clip from Ray Vander Laan‘s “Faith Lessons” DVD series. Ray puts this scripture in context. It was a graduation ceremony of sorts for the disciples. Jesus took them to Caesarea Philippi, stood below that cave and told them that no culture would prevail against His kingdom. They would then leave Caesarea Philippi and head to Jerusalem and the crucifixion.
As Ray points out in this gifted teaching, we are charged by Christ with a mission, and that mission involves attacking our culture. But we are not called to attack like the crusaders. We are called to attack using the example of Jesus Christ—with love, forgiveness, gentleness, patience, respect and joy in our hearts. Sounds easy enough—until you try. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1st Thessalonians, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and everyone else.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). The ‘trying’ is very important. When? Always. To whom? Everyone.