Have you noticed how people gather around gates? School gates are perhaps the best place to see this, but people congregate around house gates and work gates and all sorts of gates. In older times city gates were important places where people gathered to discuss important matters and to trade.
Gates are places where the security provided by walls is opened up a bit to allow folk to go in or out. They provide access from one side to the other. Often in our world and in our lives, we’re concerned with putting up walls, with strengthening security. This is vital, if at times sad.
But without gates, we become prisoners of our walls. Without gates, the walls serve only to divide us from whoever is on the other side. Without gates we are trapped, cut off, we are shrunk to limits of our own making.
Gates are on the edge of safety, in times of trouble they are shut and barred. But gates, allow us to see beyond ourselves. We can meet those from the other side of the wall, we can learn, we can exchange. Sometimes they are physical, like the gates of schools, workplaces or homes. Sometimes gates are times and places when we meet people who are different to us, when we listen to those we disagree with or when we are helped by unexpected neighbours.
The Christian hope is for the city of God whose gates will never be closed and into which the glory and honour of the nations will be brought (Rev 21). This vision can seem a long way off, but today I ask myself, which gates can I open, even if it’s just a little; and do I need to go out to meet new people or can I invite others in?
(given on Radio Bristol, 15th March, 2005)