Gatekeepers gone rogue.
Gates keep people, animals, and other things either in or out. The gate keeps my dog in the yard. And the gate (hopefully) keeps the neighbor’s dog out. The toll gate keeps me from using the bridge for free. And the security gate keeps us safe from would-be terrorists or school shooters.
We also have gates in the faith community. Imaginary gates with unrealistic expectations. And these gates quite often have gatekeepers.
The evangelical church world has been plagued by gatekeepers for many years now. These keepers of the gate feel compelled to decide who goes in and who stays out. But, to be fair, Jesus faced similar experiences in His day. So, in practice, the Church has been plagued for 2000 years, not 200 years.
In John’s Gospel, while addressing the Pharisees and gatekeepers, Jesus uses this figure of speech…
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice”. (John 10:2-5)
I believe there are two misconceptions within the Church today that set us up for these rogue gatekeepers.
The first misconception is the idea that we are to bring people into the church and keep others (unbelievers, deceivers, wolves in sheep’s clothing) out. It gives the impression that we, as Believers, are the ones who are captive. We view Believers as enclosed with strict boundaries, gates, and fences.
Yet, the picture that Jesus paints for us is the idea of being called out into open spaces. He leads us into green pastures where we are free to run and explore with Him safely by our side. It is the one who does not yet know Him who is trapped behind gates and fences. Instead, Jesus tells us that he whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
And He calls us by name.
The second misconception is our role as gatekeepers. We view our role as someone who keeps people in or out. But Jesus tells us our role is to open the gate for Him.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him!
Our role is to open the gate to let Jesus into people’s lives. We are called to do whatever it takes so they can hear Him calling them by name. We open the gate to let Jesus in and to let people out; to set them free!
Jesus goes into the places where people are trapped. Trapped by sin, pride, anger, and pain. Trapped by the vices and empty promises of the world. Trapped by fences, walls, unrealistic expectations, and irreconcilable differences. And we, the gatekeepers, let Him in so He can lead them out.
Only Jesus can lead them out because they recognize His voice. We can only open the gate.
In 2017, let’s be true gatekeepers! Let us fling open wide the gates so the King of Heaven can come in and lead us out into green pastures. Here’s to a new year of open gates!