“Beautiful Gates and Narrow Minds”

South Padre Island: A person takes advantage o...
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The City Gate

“A Rabbi, walking down a street, met Elijah. Seizing the moment,

he surprised him with a question: ‘When is the Messiah coming?’

Elijah responded quickly, ‘Why are you asking me? Today the

Messiah is at the gate of the city. Go ask him.’

So the Rabbi to the gate of the city, and sure enough there was the

Messiah healing the sick, bandaging the wounded, and loving the


‘Master, when are you coming? We have been waiting so long.’

The Messiah replied, ‘Today, my son, I am coming.’

The Rabbi ran through town proclaiming at the top of his lungs,

‘The Messiah is coming! The Messiah is coming!’ But the Messiah

never appeared, and everyone laughed; the Rabbi was humiliated.

Years later, he saw Elijah, ‘You misled me, saying the Messiah was

in our lives, but he never came.’

Elijah said, ‘You’re a Rabbi. Surely you know the Messiah comes

only when we listen to the voice of God.’”[2]

The Gate Called Beautiful

When the early church emerged, members still went to the Jewish Temple to worship and pray. One afternoon, Peter and John were making their way inside the building, when they came face to face with a beggar outside the Temple Gate called Beautiful; he asked them for money.

‘Look at us!’ Peter commanded, and the man looked up, expecting to get money from them, but Peter said, ‘I don’t have any money for you, but here’s what I do have – in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk on your own!’

And taking him by the right hand, Peter helped the man stand up on his own. And the man walked with Peter and John through the Gate called Beautiful into the temple courts, dancing and praising God. And when people saw him they immediately recognized him as the guy who used beg outside the Temple gates, and they couldn’t believe the amazing changes in him!” (Acts 3:1-10 adapted from The Message by Eugene Peterson)

Unlocking the Gates

C.S. Lewis once pondered the question of whether or not it was wise to give money to beggars, saying, “It won’t bother me when I die that I have been made a ‘sucker’ by any number of impostors over the years, but it would torment me to know that I might have refused even one person who truly was in need.”[3] When I read this scripture, it touched a nerve, because there are differing opinions on whether or not we should give money to people who come to the church; most churches do not give out money. Peter and John didn’t give money to the beggar in Acts; money isn’t always the best thing for someone.

For years our family went to South Padre Island, Texas, for vacation every summer; we loved to spend a day in Mexico. Underneath the International Bridge in Matamoros or Progresso, little children held up Clorox bottles on broom sticks as their little voices begged, “One nickel, Lady, only one nickel!”

You could hear the coins swirling round and round into the little hands below, and, every once in awhile, you caught a glimpse of a toothless grin, often barefoot, waiting for someone else to cross the bridge. Several years ago, however, the Mexican Government posted a welcome sign for tourists, saying,“Our children pay a big price for your pocket change because it encourages them to skip school!”

Christian social activist Dorothy Day once said, “We are all beggars and sinners, and so when I offer bread to the hungry, I am, in a sense, feeding my own soul’s hunger; when I offer someone a place to stay, I am reminding myself how homeless we all are.”[4] Sometimes we must ask ourselves who we are really trying to serve … and at what cost?

Our family doesn’t go to South Padre Island anymore because the violence along the Mexican border has escalated at such an alarming rate. Many Americans assume that the violence is contained to a few “border” towns; some believe building a bigger fence along the American-Mexican line will keep the beggars out; it won’t. The real problem relates to the economics of “supply and demand”, and most of the products in question are drugs. What most people “on this side” do not want to admit is that “the demand” comes from us; the people on “the other side of the border” are simply feeding America’s insatiable addiction for “just a little bit more”! This year, I mailed Christmas gifts to family members staying in two different treatment centers, hoping to recover from drug and alcohol addiction; another just transitioned into a half-way house.

An article in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday sounded very familiar:

Kelli Athas, a recovering addict shared her own experience, “High school homecoming queen. Cheerleader. I came from a good, solid family who loved me; I had friends I loved being with, and a future that shined bright with opportunity. Then I made a choice that changed everything.I am a recovering drug addict. I have walked the streets with prostitutes. I have eaten table scraps. I lived the nightmare you fear for your child. I have done things to get high that I am deeply, deeply ashamed of. I understand desperation. I have been to hell, and by an unfathomable grace, I am alive and healthy today.

If your child is a drug addict, you are in a desperate place right now. I understand. Every hour of every day I was addicted to drugs, my mother and my family tried to help me; they hoped, cried, prayed and lived a frantic existence of worry and fear. If you are the parent of an addict, you likely feel just as out of control as the addict you so desperately want to help. You want to cure your baby. Unfortunately, you cannot cure this person you love.

Perhaps accepting the fact that there is no cure, no quick fix that will make everything go back to your “normal” family life, is the first step toward strength and clarity for you. There is an overabundance of well-intentioned (and many non-well-intentioned) people advertising quick methods that will change your loved one’s life, make them get off drugs and become whole again. The reality is there is no one who can cure drug addiction. Addicts must first face up to their addiction and admit they need help. They will need to find a support group that best fits their needs and stick with it. Recovery is a journey, not a destination.

I am still so saddened when I remember the pure exhaustion and desperation on my mother’s face when she would look at me during my struggle. She wanted so much for me to overcome this disease, but it would be a long road to recovery for me. I’ve been in treatment several times. I got out of my first rehab in 1996, and my mom thought the nightmare was over, and life would go back to normal. No one explained that this is a lifelong journey, a battle for me and for her. The greatest lesson I learned in my first stint in rehab was that I needed to hide my addiction better. I never thought of myself like the others in rehab; they were failures. They were low. Some whored their bodies to get money to buy drugs; others stole from their parents and kind-hearted friends. I was nothing like this. But after leaving the recovery program and getting back to my toxic patterns, I realized in the blink of an eye that I was lying to myself – I was exactly like them.

Addiction manifests itself in many ways. Manipulation and deception are huge indicators of trouble to come. Parents be vigilant – teens know how to manipulate. In my senior year of high school I was voted “Miss Smooth Talker,” and I considered this an accomplishment. It’s a well-documented fact that alcohol and drug use begins in high school. It’s highly likely your teenager has experimented with alcohol or drugs; in fact, it’s highly likely your kid has partied over the holiday break with liquor and drugs. My advice to you: Get in their face. Ask them the uncomfortable questions, and if they try to blow you off, if they try to manipulate you, do not budge.

Dig deep for strength, draw it from your love for them, and walk beside them through their recovery journey without expectation and without judgment. Be their parent, their cheerleader and the person they can trust most in the world. And no matter how dark it gets and how much they struggle to run away from you, never let them go. Kelli Athas of Dallas is a certified national drug and alcohol interventionist. She and her husband Nick Athas are the founders of a family-based intervention program. Her e-mail address is kr_peek@yahoo.com.”

Jim Wallis, once asked, Who speaks for God? It’s the voiceless and powerless for whom the voice of God has always been raised, and it’s up to us  to make sure that our vision bears some resemblance to the vision proclaimed in the Scriptures … because then people on the street corners might have a better idea of who the children of God really are!”[5]

When the beggar spoke to Peter and John, he asked for money; he didn’t get it, but he got something a whole lot more valuable than that – they helped him recover his self worth. The man sitting outside the Temple Gate called Beautiful was carried there every day by people who were going inside to pray, but he was left outside every day to beg; he was never invited inside to pray with the community. They entered the Gate called Beautiful while he sat alone – outside the doors of God’s house … day after day after day …

However, Peter and John recognized him, heard him, and Peter healed him, by making him get up and walk on his own, and that alone was worth more than all of the gold and silver in the world. Peter gave that man a gift that would allow him to go anywhere – by empowering him to believe that he was a dearly loved child of God, and that he, too, was welcome to enter the Gate called Beautiful.

Dr. Paul Brand spent many years as a medical missionary in India where beggars line the streets, and he got his compassion from Mother Theresa, who taught him to visualize the face of Christ in each and every person. Brand says, “Each of us can find in the people we meet the image of God, the spark of God likeness in the human spirit. Or, instead, we can ignore or squelch that image and judge only on the basis of external appearance. I pray that when I see a person, I will see the image of God inside. The ultimate worth, not just the cultural image that we all strive to attain.”[7]

Once you understand what God is calling you to do, then you can’t just walk away. A quote in the newspaper said, “Faith is not a belief. Belief is passive. Faith is active.”[10]

God, give me the courage to be revolutionary as your Son Jesus Christ was. Teach me to stand up and to shun criticism. Thank you for the vision of the future … for the blessings that come with being a child of your kingdom here on earth. AMEN

[1] Nicole Winfield. Associated Press. Posted: 2007-07 23:16:06 Filed Under: World “Pope Angers

Jews, Liberals With Rite; Conservatives Rejoice As Pontiff Revives Old Latin Mass


[2] From The Babylonia Talmud. Tractate Sanhedrin, 98a.

[3] C. S. Lewis, as quoted on homileticsonline http://www.homileticsonline.beggars

[4] Dorothy Day, as quoted by David A. Renwick, “Genesis: ‘Created by God,’” January 9, 2000,

Second Presbyterian Web Site, 2preslex.org.

[5] Jim Wallis. Who Speaks for God? New York: Delacorte Press, 1996, 39-40.

[6] As told by Spencer Morgan Rice, The Drama of God, Trinity Church, Boston.

[7] Dorothy Day, as quoted by David A. Renwick, “Genesis: ‘Created by God,’” January 9, 2000,

Second Presbyterian Web Site, 2preslex.org.

[8] Matt Frazier. “Hellbent for heaven,” in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Saturday, July 07, 2007, 6B.

[9] Max Lucado. In the Grip of Grace. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996, 113.

[10] Edith Hamilton. As quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Saturday, July 7, 2007, 6B.


2 comments on ““Beautiful Gates and Narrow Minds””
  1. Hello Rev. Katie. I thought this was a great article. I hope you don’t mind me promoting it some and also sharing it with our congregation in our blog. Feel free to read about it at http://bit.ly/uyxGXi. I am head of evangelism at First Christian Church in Fort Worth. I am always looking for other bloggers to connect with and share the word. I was happy to find you and look forward to getting to know you better.

    Have a great day and keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Dale,

      Thank you so much! I have not written much lately because I have been so busy at a new ministry position at a new church in Colleyville; however, you are more than welcome to share any of my sermons and/or articles with your congregation. First Christian Church is a wonderful community of faith; I have many friends who worship with you. Please know that you are in my prayers.
      Warmest regards.

      Katie Alexander

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