“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18
Several years ago, the Pentagon built warships designed to fight terrorism. This class of battleship could carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. Interestingly, one of the fleet, the USS New York, was built with 24 tons of scrap metal from the wreckage of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Talk about turning the tables on terrorism–the fallout of one of the most horrific acts of terrorism was used for fighting against evil!
But it’s no better than the idea that our God had when He took us, scraped and trashed by the terrorism of sin, and processed us through a redemptive meltdown to re-tool us for war against the terror of hell. As Paul said, we are a new creation in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), having been delivered from the grip of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13)! Why the meltdown and re-creation? To equip us to aggressively go against the forces of darkness in our world. To crash the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)!
I remember my wrongheaded thinking about this verse. When Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand against His church, I always pictured His words as a statement about how safe we are from the power of hell. It probably was a mindset leftover from the fortress mentality of my early days in church. Back then we spent a lot of time talking about how hellish our world was and encouraged each other to hunker down ’til Jesus comes. But Jesus never intended that we would hunker down. Christ’s words mean that we are to pummel the gates of hell by aggressively taking its territory with the superior power of acts of righteousness.
In a world where we have forgotten how to treat each other, we crash the gates of division and alienation with acts of kindness and the healing power of forgiveness. We cleanse the toxic dumps of prideful acts and self-serving agendas with the power of humility and servanthood. Into a world run by the hellish treachery of genocide, oppression, and greed, we are to become advocates for the abused and the poor. In the face of prejudice and injustice, the church is to rise up with open arms to all people regardless, and seek to bring justice to bear on behalf of the marginalized and maligned. And, for those captives still chained in sin, we storm the gates to set the captives free with the power of the gospel!
Amazing, isn’t it?! Taken from the scrap pile of hell, we former captives have been melted down and recreated in the likeness of Jesus, who as our champion leads the charge and guarantees the victory!
While the Pentagon is building new warships, Jesus is busy building His church. And while I don’t know if we can win the war on terror, I do know this—if we will follow our leader, hell doesn’t stand a chance!