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The Black Door: fear of the unknown

By Stuart Kerner

During a particularly long and unpleasant war which had raged for many years, a spy found that he had been betrayed. Despite his attempts to escape back to his own country, the spy was captured and sentenced to death by firing squad – as was the custom in that land.

As the spy was led out into a draughty courtyard to face his fate, he noticed to his left a wall full of small bullet holes – this was clearly where he would meet his end. However, before he could dwell on this terrible thought, he also noticed to his right a large, beautifully decorated black door. Suddenly his attention was caught by the sight of a man in the uniform of a general coming towards him.

Despite his obvious importance and the many shiny medals gleaming on his chest, the general looked like a kindly old man – quite unsuited to the role of a man of war. The general looked the spy straight in the eye and told him in a soft voice that he had a choice – he could either face the firing squad or pass through the large Black Door. The spy was allowed ten minutes to decide, and was directed to sit down in the centre of the courtyard.

As the moment of execution drew near, the general ordered the spy to be brought before him to receive the answer of the doomed man to the question: ‘Which shall it be – the firing squad or the Black Door?’

This was not an easy question, and the prisoner hesitated, but soon made it known that he much preferred the firing squad. Ninety seconds later a volley of shots in the courtyard proclaimed that the grim sentence had been carried out.

The general, staring at his boots, turned to his assistant and said sadly, ‘You see how it is with most people, they will always prefer the known way to the unknown.’

‘What lies beyond the Black Door?’ asked the aide.

‘Freedom,’ replied the general, ‘and I’ve known only a few men brave enough to take it.’


Do you fear the unknown? Perhaps sometimes you should walk through the ‘Black Door’ – you never know, it might bring you freedom.


SPCK - Publishing Christian Books