An example of keeping something in would be the Berlin Wall. It was erected to prevent people in Eastern Berlin from emigrating out. The leadership there had created an oppressive government and had to resort to building a wall (along with mines and guard towers) to keep the citizens from leaving.
An example of a wall being built to keep something out would be the Great Wall of China. Built (originally) by a Chinese emperor circa 200 BC, it was rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty largely for the purpose of keeping Mongols out of China.
We (humanity) naturally want to build walls. We like to carve out our own place and protect it.
Those of us who have chosen to become members of the Body of Christ must resist this temptation.
We have often succumbed to the temptation to keep ourselves safe from the elements of the world that are less than savory. Elements that we can’t imagine could ever be sanctified. More specifically, to keep out the “wrong kind” of people.
And in doing so, the walls we built to keep ourselves safe and sanctified have become the walls of our own tombs.
Walls, as I have pointed out, are designed to keep people in and/or keep people out. The church should be in the habit of neither of these efforts.
Show me where Jesus built walls around his ministry. He had infinite grace to be among these “disreputable sinners” and “scum” (Mark 2:15-16 NLT). The only people who found themselves on the outside looking in were the very people who had built walls in the name of God: the religious leaders. The people who filled God’s temple with con artists.
Even then, Jesus did not lock them out. They repeatedly came to him, and had access. It was their own choice to ostracize Jesus. To build walls attempting to keep him out.
You should note something in common with the famous examples of walls I listed at the beginning of this article: they both failed. The Berlin Wall fell. The Great Wall failed multiple times at preventing invasion.
Our churches must not become stale and stagnant like water in a bottle. They must remain free and alive like a river.
By accepting everyone and empowering members to go out into the community, we build ties with the community. We become integrated, and we have the opportunity to make an impact. Just like a guy I read about: wait...what was his name? Oh, right. “Jesus”.
Our purpose is not to carve out a safe, secure, comfortable area in this world. It’s to expand the borders of God’s kingdom. A kingdom of grace, peace, acceptance, justice, forgiveness and healing.
Look at Revelation 21:25 - at the end of this age, when the New Jerusalem comes upon the earth, it’s gates never close.
If ‘keeping people out’ isn’t a priority in God’s eternal kingdom, is that something we should practice in our churches here and now?
I, for one, don’t think so.