In my city of Kingston there are some big organizations with very large budgets. Alcan makes aluminum products. Dupont makes fibers. Queen's University also has a huge budget. As does Kingston General Hospital, the Royal Military College, and the school boards. And in every big company or organization the CEO entrusts people with keys. Each office, filing cabinet, and safe has its keys. Some employees have the keys to storerooms and the company cars and trucks. These days many keys are computerized passwords.
When a minister is inducted into a new charge, he or she is symbolically given the keys. This can soon become a heavy chore. One minister showed me round his church plant in downtown Toronto and he showed me a huge bunch of keys. He said "I feel like a jailor." In every congregation of the church in this city people are given keys to various parts of the building, the organ, the computer, filing cabinets, bank accounts, and the cupboards of the Sunday School. My little task in Jesus' world-wide company is to write for this website. Nobody can get into my computer without the electronic key, and the webmaster has the key to the website - only he can delete or add anything from what goes out under our name.
When it finally dawned on Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus gave him a set of keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16:15-19). Keys are to open and shut doors, to let people in or shut them out. In spite of a bad failure when Peter denied he had ever known his Lord, the Apostle found himself using his keys to let in 3,000 people by baptism on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). His next major task was to open the doors for foreigners to eat in the Messiah's church (Acts 10:1-2, 44-48). Jesus had said that opening and shutting doors would include binding and loosing (Matthew 18:18), which was a term used by the rabbis for declaring things to be kosher or freed from regulation. Peter freed the Messiah's church from the Old Testament food restrictions (Acts 10:13-15, as Jesus had said in Mark 7:18-19).
As apostles, Peter and Paul, were entrusted with keys to the universal church. But in each city Christians have keys to the Kingdom in that location. We can open the door for others or shut them out. As Paul said, "Welcome one another, therefore, just as the Messiah welcomed you" (Romans 15:7). But John complained that "Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first . . . refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church" (3 John 9-10). On the other hand he says that we must use our keys to lock out teachers who reject Jesus as Messiah (2 John 7, 10-11).
Each of us already has keys to the lives of our children and family members. Better not irk them by interfering so that they have to keep us out. If we are friendly, we will also have keys to some neighbors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus said that anyone could suddenly become a neighbor in need (Luke 10:29-37). We spend eight hours a day working with others in an office or factory. When we take an interest in them and in their families we have many open doors. Taking part in and organizing sports in the community gives us other keys to use. Volunteers are needed to help in all sorts of clubs and organizations. And there are greater responsibilities in the government of our city, state or province, and federal institutions.
The church in this city would come alive if each of us said to the CEO: "This is what I think needs doing, and I would like to do it for you." And from what I observe my impression is he would soon hand over the keys needed to open the doors that would make it possible.
If these are all doors that the CEO is keen to open for his kingdom to be effective, the church in my city is much more than our church buildings and the worship that is conducted within their walls. And I see many of those who do not attend our services being given keys for tasks that they undertake at great cost in time and energy. I want to honor them and pray for them. I wish there was a way for them to see that the Jesus they profess to deny is actually the Lord that they serve.