Please, Get Uncomfortable

For some time, I have been on the email list of an organization that sends out and promotes petitions supporting Christian beliefs in Canada when they feel that there is something that might be threatening our rights.

Or rather, that’s what I thought they did when I signed up (which was probably through one of the said petitions, I don’t remember).

Over the last little while, I’ve taken note, with dismay, that the tone of the campaigns are as often fear-based and fear-mongering as they are about standing up for the rights of Christians to worship and express their worship and beliefs without persecution.

And today, after a rather lengthy email to them that I’m praying impacts at least one person (but it would be awesome if it sparked a change in attitude at the organization) and that also inspired this post, I unsubscribed.

Because I don’t want to slur the name of this organization, which also does good work, I am not going to link to their campaign or reprint it, and I hesitate about even becoming too specific about what was wrong with it.

Instead, I’d like to address the attitude behind the email in more general terms, because it is a cancer that too often and too easily finds root in the heart of Christians.

Entitlement.

Bet you didn’t see that coming, did you?

Comfortable, are we? Image courtesy of  123rf.com .

Comfortable, are we? Image courtesy of 123rf.com.

It’s not just a Millennial problem. It’s a problem for everyone, the person on this side of the keyboard included.

We get so used to things the way they are, and we get comfortable with them that way—especially if “the way things are” favours us and our lifestyle and beliefs. But let someone stand up and say “The current situation is uncomfortable or even harmful for me” and we splutter and shout and decry them without once bothering to stop and listen to find out why. I mean, heaven forbid that we would be required to change, right?

I’m all for comfort, friend. I like my easy chair and my monitor adjusted to the right height and my wood stove on a winter’s day. I love big sweaters and knowing that I can go into town on Sunday and worship with a congregation of other like-minded believers and no one is going to stop me.

But if I begin to think that my comfort is of more value than someone else’s, say the woman who spent 80 hours hand-knitting a sweater for pennies a day so I could buy it on discount and crow about the deal I got while she’s struggling to feed her family on slave wages, then I’m wrong.

This is not a crusade for Fair Trade practices (though I strongly believe in them), and I’m not saying I follow the trail of accountability for every purchase I make. I’m using this as an example. Because if I buy that sweater on discount and don’t know that the company uses indentured slaves to supply them, that’s not hypocrisy. It’s ignorance, perhaps laziness, but I’m not willfully exploiting someone or infringing on their rights for my benefit.

But if someone crusades against a company’s inhumane practises and successfully brings them to the world’s attention, including mine, and I say:

“I don’t care, I’m buying my sweaters from them anyway because I don’t want to be inconvenienced by finding a new place to buy my clothes. I deserve to pay next to nothing for them, and why does she think she deserves to be paid more? Besides, she’s probably lying, anyway. She probably chose to live in that situation—I mean, look how many kids she has—and it’s not my responsibility to fix it. At least if I’m buying the sweater, she’s getting a little money. What more do you want from me?”

Now I’m in the wrong. On so many levels.

Can we agree so far?

The cross was about anything but comfort. Image courtesy of  Lightstock.com .

The cross was about anything but comfort. Image courtesy of Lightstock.com.

Christians are fond of saying that America and Canada were founded on Christian ideals. “One nation under God” and all that. I’m not so sure I agree.

My ancestors came to this land to farm and to seek opportunity, and none of them were in government (that I know of). But in general, the attitude of the peoples who conquered North America has been to suppress, change, and exterminate the peoples and beliefs that already existed here. Many of the colonists had been oppressed in the areas they came from, then turned around and did the same thing to the Indigenous groups that inhabited the places they settled.

That sounds very Christian, doesn’t it?

The problem is, any time we are trying to force our beliefs on someone, we are a) fighting a losing battle, because belief can’t be forced, it must be chosen, and b) not acting in love and in their interests, but in our own.

Let me say that again for the folks who were distracted by a Facebook notification:

Trying to change another person’s beliefs through force or legislation is a selfish act.

And despite the many Crusades that were conducted in the name of Christ, it is as anti-Christian as you can get.

When Jesus came to earth, he associated with the poor, the disenfranchised, the “sinners.” These are the ones he had dinner with and who became his friends.

He only had confrontations with one group of people—the religious elite. These were the ones trying to interpret God’s will for the common folk, who tried to micro-manage every moment of their day through an unending list of man-made laws, and who would enforce the tiniest of these rules while neglecting the principle that informs it—which often meant harming their fellow man instead of supporting and helping them.

Jesus didn’t fit their idea of a Messiah. He didn’t rebel against the government in power (the Roman Empire) and enforce a Judaic state or ideals on the world. Instead, he preached a single message wherever he went—“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” And the people followed him. Wherever he went, there was a crowd, longing to know the love and grace he freely shared.

The religious elite didn’t like that. Not a bit.

These are the ones he yelled at. These are the ones he publicly shamed. These are the ones who got so uncomfortable with the truth that they eventually crucified him.

The discomfort of the religious elite killed love.

Let’s just sit and think about that for a moment, shall we?

I’m really not sure what more there is to say on this, but I’ll wrap up my point, in case it is not already clear to you.

As Christians, we need to examine the motivations behind our personal crusades. If you bear the name of Christ, you bear the name of the God of Love. But unfortunately, in this world we have become known more by what we are against than what we are for. Just like the religious elite that Jesus so often clashed with.

Could that be because instead of loving people and lighting the way to relationship with the God of Love, which is our primary mission, we have gotten too caught up in safeguarding our comfort?

As I said in that email today:

If you're a Christian, you should darn well be uncomfortable on a regular basis. We are called to go into the world, to the broken, and love them. There is very little about this that is comfortable and that will not cause some anxiety—unless someone is firmly rooted in Christ. And a Christian who is living up to their call would not spread a petition that basically says "my discomfort is of more value than X group's discomfort. They should accommodate me."

Without a little discomfort and adversity, we become weakling Christians.

Friend, loving like Christ loved is far from comfortable. It is difficult, inconvenient, and often downright terrifying. And it ALWAYS pro-actively gives instead of re-actively hoards.

Loving like Christ loved is far from comfortable. It is difficult, inconvenient, and often downright terrifying.

So the next time a “cause” comes your way, or you are tempted to dig in your heels and shout down someone else’s concerns based on “what the Bible says,” stop and think first: is what I’m saying really about God’s way, which is love? Or is it about me and my comfort?

I think you’ll find that the loving thing to do is to put away the swords and pitchforks and instead listen to what the other person is really saying. It’s hard, because defending our comfort is what comes naturally.

But that doesn’t mean it is right.

Love means leaving heaven and power and becoming completely vulnerable to the very people who scorn you.

Love means stepping away from high society’s expectations to mingle and serve among the dregs.

Love means dying for the person who is pounding in your nails.

Love means listening. Love means seeing people and accepting them. Love means forgiving those who betray you and nail you to a cross.

This is the message that Jesus calls us to preach. There is nothing comfortable about it.

Please, I invite you—get uncomfortable.

Please Come

Written and performed by Nichole Nordeman

Oh, the days when I drew lines around my faith
To keep you out, to keep me in, to keep it safe
Oh, the sense of my own self entitlement
To say who's wrong or won't belong or cannot stay

'Cause somebody somewhere decided
We'd be better off divided
And somehow despite the damage done
He says, "come" ...

There is room enough for all of us, please come
And the arms are open wide enough, please come
And our parts are never greater than the sum
This is the heart of the One
Who stands before an open door and bids us, "come"

Oh, the times when I have failed to recognise
How may chairs are gathered there around the feast
To break the bread and break these boundaries
That have kept us from our only common ground
The invitation to sit down
If we will come ...

There is room enough for all of us, please come
And the arms are open wide enough, please come
And our parts are never greater than the sum
This is the heart of the One
Who stands before an open door and bids us, "come"

Come, from the best of humanity
Come, from the depths of depravity
Come now and see how we need
Every different bead on this same string
Come ...

There is room enough for all of us, please come
And the arms are open wide enough, please come
And our parts are never greater than the sum
This is the heart of the One
Who stands before an open door and bids us, "come"