One of my favorite quotes is from an evangelist from a century ago. His name was C.T. Studd. First of all you have got to love it when an evangelist is named “Studd”. He has to be on the all time great names list for Christians, right after Justin Martyr. But I digress. The quote that I like so much is, “Some people want to live within the sound of mission bells, but I want to run a mission, a yard from the gates of Hell”. What C.T. Studd was saying is that as followers of Christ we should not be content to live our lives in some nice, serene, Christian Utopia where we are always within the soft sound of church bells. Rather, we should set ourselves up right outside the gates of Hell looking to reach any and everyone who seems destined to enter those gates.
It would certainly be less beautiful near those gates than in the pastoral setting of the Christian Utopia. It would be more chaotic to be sure. It would be hotter without a doubt. It would be more uncomfortable outside those gates. The smoke would sting in your eyes as you looked for people to tell about the mercy of Jesus. It would burn your throat as you spoke with them about the forgiveness available through faith in him. You might get your back singed a bit as you stood your ground, hoping against hope to demonstrate the love of Christ to people in need. All of this might cause you to long for the idyllic setting of the Christian Utopia. But, when it would be all said and done and you are looking back, which life would you really want to have lived? Would it be the life of ease and comfort and sweet Christian Utopia? Or would it have been the life that put it all on the line to make a difference for others?
One thing to keep in mind is this; you will have eternity to enjoy that Christian Utopia. It is called heaven. When this age comes to an end you will have countless days to enjoy the sweet fellowship of those who have trusted Christ. It is only here and only now that you have the opportunity to be an ambassador for Christ who is charged with the ministry of reconiliation, of bringing Good News to people in depserate need.
C.T. Studd has it much closer to the truth of what we are to be about than most Christians. But he is still just a degree two off the mark. Studd wanted to set up a mission outside the gates of Hell. Jesus said that we are to go forth and crash the gates of Hell. We are to be about the task of knocking down strongholds, of breaking down the gates and overthrowing the dominion of the enemy. We are called to battle. But it is not a battle against flesh and blood. Our battle is not with people, even if those people are violently opposed to Jesus. Our battle is a spiritual one. We win that battle by loving God with all we have and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It always comes back to that. Jesus said that everything, all the law and prophets, all we are told to do and believe, comes under the umbrella of loving God and loving our neighbor.
We don’t need to be angry, argumentative, and annoying. We need to be more and more like Jesus who was patient with broken people. We need to demonstrate the same kind of grace to others that Jesus demonstrates to us. That is how he crashed the gates of Hell in our hearts and rescued us. That is how we do it for others.