In the moments leading up to the third and final Presidential Debate which was to focus on foreign policy, I listened to a political analyst say, “The best international diplomacy happens behind closed doors.”
I thought that was an interesting statement, one that caught my attention, especially having just returned from the Middle East with our learning community. While there, we listened to an international critique of “closed-door diplomacy”. Israelis and Palestinians alike argued that “closed-door diplomacy” was not resulting in human flourishing in the Middle East. Instead, they pointed to the walls that separate families and to the shattered economies that impoverish not only villages and cities, but also the imaginations of the next generations and declared that closed-door diplomacy was only successful at churning out “impoverished people with impoverished imaginations.”
“These kinds of impoverished people,” they continued, “are dangerous.”
So was that political analyst correct in his assertion? Is closed-door diplomacy working? Is it helping? Is it best?
What if, rather than human flourishing, our “closed-door diplomacy” is generating “dangerous people?”
As I reflect on closed doors and the teachings of Jesus, I am struck by two times when He references closed doors.
First, in Matthew 6:6, Jesus says, “When you pray, go into a closet and close the doors.” The teaching does violence to our arrogance and image-management while, at the same time, informs our posture and exposes a different kind of power. According to Jesus, prayer is a moment of intimacy in which both God and we are right-sized. It is an experience of submission where we recognize that we don’t know best nor are we capable of anything outside of the Power & Presence of God. It is in the moments of prayer, where we assume the posture of powerlessness, that we become empowered to live with wisdome and with human flourishing as our end.
Second, in Revelation 3:20, Jesus envisions Himself standing outside of a closed and locked door. He says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” The infrastructure with the closed door that Jesus stands outside of is none other than the Church. No doubt, she is engaged in her own kind of “closed-door diplomacy”, convinced that the strategies for human flourishing that she conceives of within her walls will be blessed by the One who stands locked outside. “If you let Me in” Jesus says, “I’ll show you the things that make for peace and that cause humans to flourish.”
Human flourishing, according to Jesus, does not happen because of “closed-door diplomacy.” Instead, it happens because men and women engage in closed-door listening sessions (prayer) and in open-door relationship with Him and others.