When I was a child, my grandmother had a popular print of Jesus knocking at a door. Of course, it was an artist’s version of Jesus. He looked kind and understanding. He also looked white and North American. Is this kind, white Jesus the one who knocks? Or, is the Lord disruptive?
In spirituality, religion, or faith, many people seek comfort. Affirmation is more appealing than disruption. But, Herod’s reaction to the birth of the promised-Messiah was infanticide. Assuming Matthew’s account is true, why would Herod do that? Does he see Jesus as a threat? If so, why? According to my grandmother’s picture, Jesus is a kind, white man who looks like he wants to do something nice.
The most innocuous life would be one of living and let others live. That kind of life does not appear to threaten anyone. It would be the kind of life Herod could overlook. Yet, the Lord knocks. What happens when we answer? Life is more complicated. Living and letting others live ignores the unintended consequences of every action. Eating meat is no problem, but when everyone eats meat, the demand for meat leads to habitat destruction to raise more meat. My hamburger is no problem. Cattle grazing on deforested land is a problem. Every action can have untended consequences.
When the Lord knocks, does that mean we should stop eating meat? Even saying ‘yes’ to that question is simplistic. Answering the door means engaging with God. It means recognizing the interconnectedness of life. God created all life. God created humanity in harmony with nature. Given the choice, humanity falls into conflict over and over again. Whether through legislation or interpersonal relationships, people find ways to be in conflict with one another.
Does answering the door when the Lord knocks reduce conflict? No. The first conflict is overcoming a desire to recreate God in our own image. I want the Jesus at the door to affirm me as I am. I want him to utter words of encouragement and comfort. Instead, he says “Take up your cross and follow me.” More than once, I have been traveling in my ministry and made a joke about suffering for Jesus—usually, this means I have just enjoyed a particularly wonderful meal or have fantastic accommodations.
“I stand at the door and knock,” says the Lord. If we open the door, God invites us into a dialogue. God invites us to change. God can provide comfort and encouragement, but that is not God’s purpose. The Lord knocks to transform our lives.