I was reading selected essays (from God in the Dock) from C.S. Lewis and came across a statement he made during a recorded Q&A. To set the proper context, his comments came as a response to which religion provides its’ followers the “greatest happiness.” Lewis’ response included this statement: “As perhaps you know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” There it is. Comfortable and Christianity are not terms that should be associated together. And yet, isn’t that what much of American Christianity is? Comfortable?
I should first admit that I’m rather comfortable. So, whatever is written the rest of this post applies chiefly to me. I’m also aware that I’d really rather not live such a comfortable life. The problem is I prefer it. It’s easier to be comfortable and safe, right? Well, it all depends on your perspective.
Safe and comfortable didn’t end well for a number of biblical characters. Jesus’ words seem to undercut modern ideas of safety and comfort. My church is walking through a series of sermons on stewardship. Today’s sermon was from Luke 6. Our pastor started with Luke 6:20, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” The corresponding woe of 6:20 comes in 6:24, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” Much, much more was said that this, and I hope to address at least a little of what he said, but if this was all that he said, I’m already uncomfortable. I’m not uncomfortable because I’m rich, or not at least by Western standards. I’m uncomfortable because by worldly standards (as in, standards around the world), I’m rich. At one point the pastor said 40% of the world’s population will struggle to eat. I didn’t struggle to eat. What does all this mean? I’m comfortable. But, I don’t want to be comfortable, and neither should any Christian. C.S. Lewis was right. Becoming a Christian should not be done for comforts sake.
Jesus doesn’t offer us comfort, but truth; truth is uncomfortable. Truth tells me of the way the world really is despite my day-to-day experience in the world. Truth tells me of the hurt and pain my neighbors experience despite my relative ease. Truth tells me that inevitable reality coming to each persons’ door, despite my current feeling of invincibility. Truth breaks the illusion of comfort I have so carefully created for myself. Despite my best efforts in creating an illusion where Christians are promised health, wealth and ease (though this illusion actually exists and is propagated… it’s called the Prosperity Gospel), Jesus reminds me of the inherent dangers of wealth and comfort. Those things “tend to make you feel independent of God, because if you have them you are happy already and contented in this life” (C.S. Lewis). This has proven true not only because it is God’s word, but also by human, personal experience.
Today’s sermon included the rest of Luke 6 where Jesus tells us to love our enemies, because loving those who love you isn’t anything to write home about. Actually, it’s rather comfortable and safe. And, Jesus is calling us out of comfort and into communion with him. Why, by the way do we love our enemies? Because God did (Romans 5:1-11). We were enemies, and we were loved while we were enemies.
Luke 6 ends with Jesus saying that his true disciples are those who hear and do his word. Notice what is italicized. I hear God’s word. I enjoy hearing it, talking about it, debating aspects of it. But, doing it is much harder. I want to do what his words says, but it is so…. (wait for it)….so….. uncomfortable. Yep, that’s right. It plain hurts. Love those who won’t love you back. Where is the fun in that? Jesus didn’t want to give us fun, but eternal joy. Fun is fleeting; joy is eternal. This joy Jesus gives comes through our engagement in his mission. Yes, it is and will be uncomfortable. Yet, Jesus promised we wouldn’t do it alone. We would be given the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14-17; Acts 2). By the power of the Spirit, we will walk in to the uncomfortable with the boldness of the Spirit.
Christianity is true not because it is comfortable. Rather, quite the opposite is true. Christianity calls the world for what it is, and tells the world where the answer is found. Such a proclamation may be uncomfortable, but, oh, how joyful it is!
May the Spirit empower us to see where Jesus is going and boldly follow him.