The Problem with Gates

When I was a kid we lived in a neighborhood that was in a larger neighborhood that was full of gated communities. I guess you say we lived in the least desirable part of the most desirable area. Not sure what that means exactly. We weren’t rich, we barely hung on to middle class. In fact, I would bet that if my parents had it to do all over again they would have saved their tax bill and lived someplace else. But anyways . . .

I remember always driving past the gates. I didn’t envy the people who lived behind them. I don’t even recall ever wishing to live behind those gates with them. But I was always curious. There was always the allure of the unknown. What was it like behind the gate?

I will always remember my trips to Honduras and Jamaica. They were the only two times I have been outside the U.S. to do mission work. Each trip significantly impacted my life and my faith. One thing that really stood out to me on those trips was the economic disparity of the people. There was no middle class to speak of. There was wealthy, not Bill Gates wealthy,  probably like Mr. Howell (shameless Gilligan’s Island reference) wealthy. And then there was broke. Not broke because we have too much student loan and credit card debt. But broke, as in what are we going to eat for supper broke. One thing that always struck me as odd (especially in Honduras) is that you could never really see too much of the rich people’s homes. You might be able to see past the trees and get a glimpse. Or you might be able to see the roof if it stood taller than the trees. But what you never missed was the gate. It’s been almost ten years since I went to Honduras, but I still remember some of the gates. They were that prominent. I guess they stood out so much because right next to the gate you might be able to find a one room shack that housed a family of five.

No matter where you go in the world, you will find gates. They are literally everywhere.

Every time I read the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), I think about all the gates that I’ve seen in my life. I often wonder about the Lazarus in Jesus’ story. I wonder if he was a real person that Jesus had met at some point. I wonder if he envied the man that lived behind the gate. I wonder if he longed to live behind the gate. I wonder if he daydreamed about what was behind the gate. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem like he cared. I imagine, if he were real, that he was most interested in just trying to make it through that day – a lot like many of the people in Honduras.

You know, whether or not you live behind an actual gate, there’s a real danger or threat that we will build real nice and fancy gates in our lives. The Rich Man had both. He lived behind the gate for the same reason most people do – to separate themselves from everyone on the outside. But the worst gate in his life was the one that he built around his heart. Because in the end, while he was able to separate himself from the undesirable Lazarus, he ended up separating himself from God.

Be careful not to live your life behind gates. Because whatever gates you choose to live behind now, God will allow you to keep when it’s time to meet Him.

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Earn the Right

I’m reading through Rick Warren’s, “The Purpose Driven Church” (again), and I came across this passage (p.226-27). It’s in the chapter where he talks about how Jesus attracted such great crowds. One point he misses was the novelty factor. However, he makes some terrific points about Jesus’ ministry strategy. Jesus’ message was clear. He was proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk 1:15; Matt 4:17).  However, it’s clear that Jesus understood that the message alone wasn’t enough. The message had to be qualified in some way so that the people would first care to hear it and second believe it. Jesus knew this better than anyone. He seems clear that he did this in two ways. First, by performing miracles; so people would recognize (if not accept) his authority (Mk 2:9-10). Second, by showing the people how much he loved them. His love and compassion won them over (Matt 14:14)!

If Jesus saw the need to qualify his message and earn the right to share it, then why in the world would we be any different?! Doesn’t the way we often do “church” seem so much against Jesus’ ministry pattern? Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. So many congregations will hold a Gospel Meeting each year (sometimes even twice a year) and think that, just because they announced the event in their community and paid another preacher to come in and preach, that unbelievers will flock into their building and accept Christ. What puzzles me even more than this is that they will be confused and even upset that no one came! Why would anyone come? It’s past time for the Church to wake up and realize that the 50’s and 60’s are over. Satan has been hard at work winning over our society by changing our culture. We can’t afford to ignore this – peoples souls are at stake. We have to earn the right to share Christ with them by first being Christ to them!

Here’s an excerpt from the passage I referred to:

Because preachers are called to communicate truth, we often mistakenly assume that unbelievers are eager to hear it. But unbelievers aren’t that interested in truth these days. In fact, surveys show that the majority of Americans reject the idea of absolute truth.

Moral relativism is the root of what is wrong with our society. People worry and complain about the rising crime rate, the breakup of the family, and the general decline of our culture, but they don’t realize the cause of it all is that they don’t value truth. Today tolerance is valued more than truth so it is a big mistake for us to think that unbelievers will race to church if we just proclaim, “We have the truth!”  Their reaction will be, “Yeah, so does everybody else.” Proclaimers of truth don’t get much attention in a society that devalues truth. To overcome this, some preachers try to “Yell it like it is.” But preaching louder isn’t the solution.

While most unbelievers aren’t looking for truth, they are looking for relief. This gives us the opportunity to interest them in truth. I’ve found that when I teach a truth that relieves their pain or solves their problem, unbelievers say, “Thanks! What else is true in that book?” Sharing biblical principles that meet a need creates a hunger for more truth.

Very few of the people who came to Jesus were looking for truth; they were looking for relief. So Jesus would meet their felt need, whether it was leprosy, blindness, or a bent back. After their felt needs were met, they were always anxious to know how the truth about this man who had helped them with a problem they couldn’t solve.

 

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