The Other Side of the Door
For many Christians, and for many non-Christians who have been exposed to the Christian message, there is a strange absurdity that keeps us from embracing the calling of Jesus Christ: we are obsessed with the door, but fail to speak very much about where it leads.
We are clear about the need to enter the door. We call people to it, insist they make a decision, come down an aisle, pray a prayer to go through the entrance. We warn them about the dangers of remaining on their side of the door. Many churches report how many people have passed through said door in the last month or year (usually ignoring the question of how many times they had purportedly passed through it before).
For those who identify as believers, we make much of the fact that they have passed through that door. We have them write the date of their ingress in their bibles. We assure them of the good news that they are, now, on the right side of things. We even use the door to gesture towards biblical ideas like obedience, telling Christians that because they have walked through it, they therefore ought to follow certain rules (and perhaps hinting that, if they don’t, they might get booted back through).
Even our theology of Jesus tends to focus solely on the door. He is the one who secured our entrance. He is the one who paid our cover charge. He broke the lock that kept us on the wrong side of things.
The problem with all of the above is that most of it isn't wrong per se. As Jesus tells us, He is the door of the sheep. We are called to enter through Him. However, what is missed is what we are entering into. Too many people conceive of Christianity as a desperate need to RSVP with no idea what they are committing to, or whether it is a party they would even like to attend.
In John 10, Jesus is very clear about why the sheep need to enter through His gate. It is because by entering they will find the best sort of life, one of ultimate peace and security (Luke 10:9-10). They will be protected from the thieves and wolves of this world that seek to tear them apart (Luke 10:8, 12) The sheep, on the far side of the door, find a new community and experience a new connection with God (Luke 10:14-16). This is not the reason they go in—that is because they belong to the shepherd and hear His voice—but it is the reason the gate is good.
To shift the metaphor, the whole point of Jesus being the door is that we are being invited to enter into the house where God dwells. We are being called into a completely different place, a changed reality, a mansion where we might live completely different lives than those we had before, all remade by the fact that now God is no longer our enemy but our present Father and friend. Or to use Jesus’s terms, we are being offered the gospel of the kingdom—a proclamation that life lived in communion with God is available to us right now, in this age, through Him.
One of the great tragedies of evangelical Christianity is that we constantly tell people of the need to enter into life but speak very little and very poorly about what that life actually entails. We have gotten people all dressed up but left them with nowhere to go. Little wonder that, for too many believers, their identity as Christians makes little difference to their daily lives.
The Christian call should mirror the call to Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) "Leave behind the old way of living, of thinking, of loving and moving through the world. Walk with me into an entirely new world, one in which the old way of things is turned upside down. A world of blessing to you and to the nations as it flows through you."
Jesus summed up his own call in strikingly similar language to that given to Abram: “Come, follow me.” The door is a portal into discipleship, kingdom priorities and divine life.
Again, none of this removes the need to enter into life by faith or the gobsmacking work of grace by which Jesus opened the way for us to do so. Christianity is not less than walking through the door, but it is so much more.
To come at it from one final direction, Jesus tells us where the door is meant to lead. "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) This is not about anything as crass as worldly success or prosperity. Instead, it insists that the way we move through our days on the world’s terms is really a sort of animated death. Life under the sun cannot deliver the deep happiness, fulfillment and flourishing our hearts desire. What we need is to pass into a different life, one lived each moment in the powerful and welcoming presence of God. This new life contains a depth of being over which this one is but a translucent phantasm. It is not a life we discover all at once: we pass through the doorway and find it is but the first step in following our Savior and, slowly, becoming as He is. Yet it is real, and as we grow into it, we find an abundant existence which we could not imagine from the other side.
Have you experienced that sort of life? Are you seeking to grow in it? Do you hunger and thirst for it, longing to know such an all-encompassing remaking of all that is old being made new?
That is the invitation we are being given in Jesus Christ. It is not about making some decision that nets us only an eschatological pie in the sky; it is an invitation for today, and tomorrow, and our whole future, in this life and the next. That is the mansion in which God dwells, and it is the house we are welcomed into by the gate of Jesus Christ. It is only peering through the door and beholding the glory beyond that the call to enter begins to make sense.