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#92 Be Not Afraid

Summary:

"On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

You'll never look at this Bible quote, or the Church, in the same way again.  Hell isn't invading the Church; instead, the Church is invading Hell.  Christ has broken down the gates of Hell, and our job as Christians is to join Him in bringing light to even the darkest corners of existence.  

Questions:

1) How can we attack the devil and the gates of hell?

2) Why is important to study the Bible and to ask a priest about it?

3) If Jesus broke the gates of hell, what does that mean for us?

Links:

Bible Gateway, Matthew 16

Orthodox Way of Life, What Weakens Faith?

Mystagogy, "Christ is Risen, Means that We Are All Risen!" (St. Justin Popovich)

Script:

Hey everybody, this is Steve and bad ideas can have really bad consequences. I was recently in Dallas for the annual Pan-Orthodox Youth and Camp Worker's Conference, which Y2AM is hosting next year. Mark your calendars. As I think about the struggles surrounding ministry in all levels, I'm increasingly realizing that one of the biggest challenges comes from us, many Christians are afraid. We talk about the difference between the sacred and secular worlds, we worry about a culture that's destroyed morals with its music and movies, we see a world where the Church is under siege.

So we've become afraid to engage the culture in which we live, we become afraid to honestly answer questions that may be too controversial for us. And rather than boldly trusting in God, we fearfully fret about declining Church attendance and how Christianity is losing ground in an increasingly hostile world rather than see it as an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. And, unfortunately, if this fearful and negative attitude becomes the foundation of our ministry, then the very things we desire to address will become distractions that lead us away from Christ.

Fear only makes us too nervous to act. Prone to isolating ourselves, tempted to lose hope. Fear only makes us poor witnesses to the Gospel in the lives of most people. While these concerns are real and we can't deny that there's evil in the world, we've already lost to the devil if we let fear put us on the defensive. And this defensive and fearful attitude starts with bad theology. Its causes are complex and I don't mean to over-simplify things, but there's one mistake that's common enough and destructive enough that we should talk about it. One simple quote from the Bible that's so often misunderstood, that it's affecting the very way we see Christ and His Church. And once I point out this mistake, you'll wonder how you never saw it before.

It's in Matthew Chapter 16 and it's just after Christ asks His disciples "Who do you say that I Am?" That's the really important question that Christian and I covered in the last episode of "Be the Bee". Saint Peter answered Christ and then Christ responded with a quote you probably heard more times than you can count. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." We normally read this quote as a promise that the Church will never fall to the forces of evil, that the gates of hell will never defeat the Church. The trouble is, that's not what gates are or do.

Pardon this nerd moment, but in "The Lord of the Rings", when the Orcs were invading the Fortress of Men at Helm's Deep, it wasn't the gates of the orcs that were invading, instead, it was the gates of Men that were being invaded. Gates are barriers used to close openings and walls, they're not offensive weapons, they're defensive fortifications.

So when Christ tells us that the gates of hell not prevail against the Church, He's not saying that hell or the forces of evil are invading the Church, quite the opposite. He is saying that the Church is invading hell. Because there's Christ pulling Adam and Eve and thus all humanity out of death and He's standing on the gates of hell, which He's just broken down. Or pay attention the next time you're attending Saturday evening Vespers, again and again you'll hear hymns rejoicing that the gates of hell didn't stand a chance against Christ.

Going down to those in Hades, Christ gave them the Good News, saying "Take courage, I Am now triumphant. I Am the Resurrection. I shall lead you forth for I have broken the gates of death." This simple realization that the gates of hell cannot stand up against Christ, that the Church is not on the defensive, but it's on the offensive. Destroying the destructive forces of sin and death changes everything.

This is not the sort of theology that builds fear, that sees the world was a scary thing that's trying to overtake us. It is the sort of theology that approaches the world with confidence in the saving grace of Christ. It's the theology of a Church that's working, not to set up walls, but to tear them down, a Church that's in the process of filling every corner of our lives, no matter how dark, with the unfading light of Christ. It's the theology Christ Himself gives us, as He approaches us again and again, simply and confidently saying "Be not Afraid".

It's the reason we make "Be the Bee", why we look for God in every person we encounter and every situation we face. And why we work so hard to share that spiritual honey with the world. It's the reason we make "The Trench", why we explore ways to approach all the relationships in our lives in a Christ-centered way. It's the reason we make our new podcast, "Pop Culture Coffee Hour", why we seek to appreciate the music and movies and culture that surrounds us, the culture to which we belong, and why we try so hard to take what we can, like good bees.

To help us better understand God and His creation. A version of Christianity motivated by fear, that sees itself as the victim of constant attack doesn't do credit to the beauty and strength of the Gospel, or to God Himself, Who is present in all places and filling all things. To be a follower of Christ is not to be on the defensive, bracing for the next attack of evil, it's to follow Christ, as He storms into hell. It's to join the work of the Church as we shine the light of Christ into even the deepest, darkest corners of existence.

Because, if God is with us, who can be against us? So be full of joy, have faith in the Crucified and Risen Lord. Bring His light into the midst of darkness, bring His joy into the midst of sadness. Bring His life into the midst of death. And be not afraid. So let's Be the Bee and take courage in Christ, the conqueror of Hades. Be the Bee and live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week. Thanks to our supporters on Patreon who helped make this episode possible. To support the creation of more Orthodox Christian content, please visit Patreon.com/y2am.

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