Uncomfortable Christianity

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”              (Lk 12:19-21, ESV)

Jesus is not interested in your comfort. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or selling  something.

Were the Israelites comfortable in the desert those forty years? Was Peter comfortable in prison? Were the Desert Fathers and Mothers comfortable? Are the brothers and sisters comfortable in China, India, the Sudan?

“You fool!” Jesus cries out in Luke’s gospel. “You made yourself comfortable and look where that got you. You exchanged your luxury bed for a dirt bed, just like everyone else.” Never mind that comfort is an illusion in which we willingly participate. Picture the flight attendant asking if you’re comfortable. “Sure. You bet. I’m hurtling across the sky in an aluminum tube at 600 mph 36,000 feet above the ground where all it takes is one popped rivet to send us all crashing to a fiery death. But yes, my diet coke has enough ice, thank you.” Never mind that comfort is fleeting (see above parable, Lk 12:13-21). Never mind that comfort is entirely based on perspective — just ask the princess about the pea.

Comfort isn’t the goal. Comfort is a distraction. Comfort is the anesthetic the devil uses to lull us to sleep while he steals our life slowly. Comfort is dangerous, like leprosy. You know why leprosy is so horrible? Because the disease attacks the body’s nerve endings. That’s why lepers in pictures are always bandaged. Because they were always injured. Tell me, if you can’t feel pain, and you’re not paying attention, how do you know when your hand is on the stove burner?

Pain and discomfort are teachers we need to survive and grow. Yet we avoid them whenever and wherever and for however long as possible precisely because they hurt and make us uncomfortable. One of the innate goals we share as humans is to exist in a state of stability and stasis. We don’t like change. It makes us uncomfortable.

And when we become uncomfortable, we react.

1 Step – Pushed one step beyond our comfort zone, we experience discomfort, so we grumble, whine and complain. Biblically speaking, we murmur (Ex 16:7-8, KJV).

2 Steps – When pushed two steps, we get angry. We step up our complaining to argument. We are uncomfortable enough that we want somebody to do something to change this mess. We don’t just call the manager, we demand a refund.

3 Steps – Anger morphs to fear when we are pushed one more step. Not cowering in the corner fear, but mobilizing fear. “By thunder, this business can not continue (because I’m scared of: where it may lead, how I’m feeling, the loss of control). If nobody else is going to do something, then I will.” When we’re afraid, we push back.

4 Steps – Call it rebellion, resistance or anarchy. When you push a human being too far, too fast, that human will turn and fight. It’s pure panic. That’s why lifeguards don’t jump in to save a drowning person unless they have to. A drowning person will happily climb up your dying body in order to breathe. In business, this looks like firing. In marriage, divorce. In religion, crucifixion.

This is what they did to Jesus. He pushed and he pushed and he pushed. Until they killed him. And this is the God who wants you to be comfortable? I don’t think so.

Jesus didn’t humble himself in obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross, so we could be comfortable. He died so we could be free. He lives so we can grow and transform and be re-formed into his image. Jesus makes us uncomfortable, on purpose. Because then and only then do we dare to change. My prayer is that God would lead you into a time of what Bill Hybel’s calls “holy discontent”. May the one who made the world make you uncomfortable enough to seek His kingdom, that you may find the deep and abundant life you seek.

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About revjayg

Episcopal priest, church planter, writer and partner in the gospel looking to connect a faith that matters with real life. View all posts by revjayg

5 responses to “Uncomfortable Christianity

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