I was still in my dressing gown this morning when I answered the door to two guys promoting a Jehovah’s Witness service tomorrow. My first response about not being interested came as something of a default – I use a similar line when taking telesales calls and I want to be left alone. A bit late I tried to explain why I don’t share their beliefs; that I am a Christian and I do believe that sharing the message is important but I don’t believe that we are obliged to knock on doors on Saturday mornings to try and persuade people. I tried to say how I thought this was legalistic, not what God wants for them and to stress the importance of grace.
Afterwards I was left feeling that I didn’t do that good a job, and that I probably take too laid back an attitude to sharing my faith. I’m not about to start knocking on doors for Jesus but I am challenged that I should share more about something I think is actually rather important. Mainly I think it is important to spot and take opportunities to talk about faith in a way that is unforced and accessible. I’ve mentioned before about the verse in 1 Peter about being always being prepared to give an answer about why we have hope, but doing so with gentleness and respect.
I don’t think door-to-door evangelism is always wrong – I’ve actually done it a bit myself in the past. I think it works best when you are inviting someone to an event or offering a magazine or something – years ago I think my church circulated a ‘Good News’ newspaper which was quite well received by some local people, and opened up the chance to chat about faith issues if people were interested. At university we went door-to-door doing a survey about people’s beliefs which got published in the college magazine. We aimed to encourage people to discuss any of the beliefs they shared which seem inconsistent and did get into some interesting conversations. We also gave out easy to read copies of one of the gospels in a funky CD style format. Inviting someone to take a look at Christianity if they haven’t done so seems very reasonable. So long as you treat them with respect and let them say no if that’s their choice.
Knocking on heaven’s door is a rather different idea. Maybe in the Dylan song it’s talking about feeling close to death, but I’ve also heard it used to describe prayer, or calling on God for a response. There have certainly been times when I’ve felt that my seeking of God has not been answered, that I have knocked but not received the promised opening of a door. Calls to persevere and keep knocking may be well meant but after a while your knocking hand hurts and you decide it’s best to give up for a while. I don’t believe that God is not interested or too busy to respond to these requests, but sometimes we do have to wait a long time for reasons that are hard to comprehend.
Other times we only knock gently and get an immediate response, from God or from others. Trying different doors is another metaphor used as we seek to find a way forward or make a decision about our futures, maybe going for a job interview. Unless you take that step, you won’t know if it might be an opportunity that’s available or not. Applying for my current job it just felt like all the doors were easily opened, but I know others have long struggles to find suitable employment. Sometimes we get fed up with knocking. Other times we stand outside a door nervously, knowing it will be opened but still reluctant to announce our presence. Who’s there? Knock knock…