Thursday, July 14, 2016

Who comes to my door

This morning, just as I was about to leave for the market, through the window in my study, I noticed two well-dressed black gents coming up to my front door. I knew, of course, that they would be Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I hurried to open the door and find out what they wanted. Most people would draw the blinds and pretend they are not at home. Not me, I am always eager to fellowship with people who are brave enough to cold call at a stranger’s door. You never know, it could be Jesus in one of His many disguises. In this case, of course, there were two, and I already knew their mission, but I ran to meet them anyway. Perhaps the Lord sent them. You can’t second guess God.

I opened the door and pulled down the glass panel of the storm door so I could speak to them through the screen. My quick movements startled the senior partner and he expressed his surprise at the miracle of a glass panel changing so quickly to a screen. I don’t like to talk to people standing outside my door through the screen, so I went outside to talk to them. This twosome was no one I had ever seen before. Earlier this year a lone ranger Jehovah’s Witness came to my door. After going outside to greet him, I invited him inside and asked him if he would like something to drink. In an affable and friendly way the two of us sorted out our respective theologies, and respectfully dialogued.

He did not even get as far as pulling out a copy of Watchtower literature. My welcoming manner seemed to have made him forget whatever mission he was on. He seemed to know a bit of Church history, and was intrigued that he had stumbled upon someone who reads the New Testament in the original Greek and understands it ‘as it is.’ When I mentioned that I have almost as good a handle on reading and understanding Hebrew, at least in the Psalms, that further surprised him. The two of us had a pleasant time of sharing, without polemics. Neither of us criticized the faith community of the other. We talked about Arius, the Council, the Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity.

He had not heard much of this before. As it turned out, he wasn’t really a ‘lone ranger’ after all. His other half—they always go out two by two, as the Lord sent out the Seventy—showed up in a shiny, late model ‘tank’ with two other black brothers in the back seat. He waved to them through the front room picture window, bade his farewell to me, said he hoped we might get together again, and departed. As we was leaving, I said, ‘Come back any time.’ Though we had introduced ourselves, I had quickly forgotten his name. Not long after that, I met him again at the market, and exchanged friendly greetings, again extending the invitation to visit again.

He did take me up on the invitation one afternoon, but I had company over, and so he didn’t want to intrude. I think that time he was accompanied by another, and after a few words, they departed. I haven’t seen him since, nor have any other Jehovah’s Witnesses come up to my door again, until today. The two that came today were on a mission, nothing more. The senior partner did all the talking, the junior watched, listened, and nodded. The famous one-sided dialogue began. ‘We are living in troubled times, aren’t we? You know, this isn’t the way we should live…’ I interrupted him, ‘Yes, times seem troubled and bad, even dangerous, but after the elections in November…’

That was the extent of my exchanging tit for tat. He wanted to present a controversy that he can take charge of, and by means of it introduce, little by little, what seem to him to be plausible positives that only the Jehovah’s Witnesses offer. His hand was already reaching for a Watchtower pamphlet and had it fully out of his bag by the time I told him that I don’t need any literature, because I have the Bible. I next identified myself as a Greek Orthodox follower of Jesus, and let him know that I had studied and understood the Jehovah Witness teachings, and that they aren’t of interest to me. I did tell him, though, that I had a Jehovah Witness friend with whom I discuss faith issues.

It must be a no-no for a Jehovah’s Witness to actually have a real conversation with a non-Witness, and the two of them tried to pry out of me the name of my friend. Luckily, I honestly didn’t know it. They asked if he was a black brother, and I said ‘yes.’ They responded, ‘Does he talk a lot? I bet it was Leo. He’s always talking, always talking too much.’ I didn’t want to get Leo in trouble, so I said nothing. The two of them seemed happy that they had a piece of evidence on their ‘brother,’ that he not only talks too much, but that he talks to strangers. The pair then bounced along back to the street, and I got my wallet and cell phone and keys and hopped into my car to go to the market.

I passed them on the road, and I waved to them, so they would see that I wasn’t just making excuses when I didn’t invite them in. I really was going to the market today to buy lumber to build a book shelf. I finished that project by lunch time, and now my collection of old National Geographic magazines has a place to live. My morning encounter with the Jehovah’s Witnesses made me ask myself, what is it that they are trying to accomplish? and, is it possible to actually have a real conversation with one of them? I guess I know the answer to my second question. My friend Leo—if that’s his name—seemed to be a perfectly loyal Jehovah’s Witness, and yet he made room to hear me.

And I am a perfectly loyal Orthodox Christian, yet in obedience to Christ my Lord and God, I welcome Leo as well as other Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am willing to hear them as people of faith, but I refuse to hear or read the scripts that others have written for them, because those unknown authors are themselves caught in a net of lies and seek to entrap others. If God is love, and if there is only one Church, and if the commandments of Jesus are to be obeyed, and if His prayer to the Father for us to be one and holy is to be amen’d, then by our unnamed witness to that God who is love, by our hospitality, by our love of strangers, the Father can draw souls to His Son, Jesus.

And that is what I have to offer to anyone who comes to my door.

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