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.
July 7th, 2021 at 9:25 am
Love RVL – probably my favourite biblical/life/discipleship teacher – but I’m a little wary when you talk of ‘attacking’ our culture – what Jesus did in the world was not described as ‘attacking his culture, but ” going about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” [Acts 10:28] The Gates of Hell were singularly incapable of prevailing against him! That is our example.
Of course there are always those that counsel us to take up the cudgels and publicly demonstrate against ‘the way things are’ – Jesus refused to take that road [Jn. 7:3-4].
When he does challenge directly, it is to those in Authority (which always predicates Responsibility) because they are narrowing the grace of God where they should facilitate it:- the synagogue officials who think a woman shouldn’t be unbound on the Sabbath; the Disciples when they seek to deny blessings to children; the market-traders who have taken over designated access space for seekers after God at the Temple with full connivance from its authorities. . . In such contexts his challenge/anger is ‘public’ – otherwise, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” [Is. 53:7]
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench [Is. 42-3].
We should stand as a witness before the World – letting our light shine by our good works, always careful to remember OUR ‘warfare’ is not against ‘flesh and blood’.
Edmund Tustian – UK