What is Comfortable Christianity? It is Christianity that loves the name, but refuses to live out following Jesus. Comfortable Christianity believes that making people comfortable and avoiding any discomfort at all is the highest value — in other words ignoring the realities that exist around us because they are uncomfortable. Comfortable Christianity isn’t really in need of a Savior — someone who can save us. We’re doing alright on our own. Don’t tell us that we are broken and sinful thank you very much. Comfortable Christianity believes that God has no say in politics or political issues or challenging subjects — that the only thing that should be preached are words that require no self-examination or radical reorientation of our lives — only ambiguous and lofty words and ideas that have no practical application. Comfortable Christianity makes excuses for injustices that occur in the world — excuses so that the comfortable Christian doesn’t feel guilty and have to speak out or take action.
Comfortable Christianity can be spotted pretty easily. It shows up in complaints about things that seem odd — Being upset with something minor about worship, all the while having no issue and not being upset with domestic violence, addiction, homelessness, poverty, trafficking, or other injustices that happen right outside the doors of the church (and sometimes inside). Sometimes it can be heard in threats to leave or withhold offerings. Sometimes it justifies itself with the misquoting of Scripture.
Comfortable Christianity too often holds a privileged place within some of our churches and demands compliance or else it will use what it can to ensure that it’s theology is enforced. Woe to the pastor or disciple who confronts this theology.
Martin Luther probably would have used another name for it — theology of glory.
Here’s what Martin Luther wrote about such theology:
16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.
17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.
18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1.20].
20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the things what it actually is.
(Heidelberg Disputation, Theses 16–21, Martin Luther, 1518)
Following Jesus is not comfortable, but brings comfort. Following Jesus brings comfort because any other option is literally insane. What comfort does the world bring? The way of the world is division, separation, fear, might makes right, only the strong survive, and leads ultimately to death. Sound like I’m exaggerating? Show me how the world brings comfort to the poor. Show me how the world bring a roof over the homeless. Show me how the world offers healing for the addict. Show me how the world offers safety for the victim of domestic violence or trafficking. Show me how the world offers peace. Show me how the world feeds the hungry? Show me. Right now. Name it. Show me how the world doesn’t ignore the immaterial needs of people.
I’ll grant that on occasion these things do happen. I’ll grant that on occasion the world gets it right. But not consistently. The church messes up plenty of times too — don’t get me wrong. But sometimes the church isn’t following Christ — hence we end up with Comfortable Christianity.
I’m done accommodating Comfortable Christianity and its privileged place in the world and the church. Comfortable Christianity will be the death of organized Christianity if it continues to be accommodated and given preference.
This is what I know — there are many disciples in the church that are yearning to be set free from Comfortable Christianity. To be unleashed from its grasp. I have seen this. And when they are set free, amazing things happen. Salvation comes. Life comes out of death. Joy flourishes. People become on fire for Jesus. Community becomes family. Forgiveness is freely given. Mercy abound. Love is the way that we follow. This is the kingdom of God in our midst!
I see these disciples take off and go. I see it in a meal at Denny’s with homeless families and men and women living out community and caring for each other. I see it when an son asks his mother for a bible and she is able to get one from her church to give away to him — and he thanks her for it. I see in the Dinner with Friends meal that gathers so many people each month to share a meal and laughter together, knowing each others names and learning their stories. I see it in ministries like making blankets and prayer shawls for those that need them. I see it in the Harvest Festival where a congregation opens its doors to the community it serves, offers joy, a meal, entertainment, and more — sharing Good News. I see it in a Sunday School class going and serving a meal at Christmas time. I see it in a group of people who gather, walk through town singing Christmas Carols to those who will listen — hearing about the wonders of God and the Good News that people are invited to receive. I see it in the sharing of the Holy Meal each week in worship. I see it in so many places, beyond what I could possibly list here. It happens in our communities, in our families, in our regions, in our nation, and internationally. When Christians are unleashed from the hold of Comfortable Christianity, Jesus takes over, miracles happen, and the kingdom unfolds before us. And we get to participate in that.
It’s time for Comfortable Christianity to end. It’s time for Comfortable Christianity to die. To die so that resurrection and new life can take root and amazing things can be unleashed — the world can be transformed.
Are we willing to be uncomfortable? Are we willing to be in utter despair of our own ability as Luther stated, to acknowledge the thing for what it is? Are we willing to follow Jesus?
Are we willing to set aside old models of church that no longer serve the needs of the church and the community in this day and age? To embrace new models to better carry out God’s mission in the world and in our community? Are we willing to be disciples and do ministry together? Are we willing to walk hand in hand into the unknown of what this might look like?
Do we really believe Jesus, or deep down, do we think he’s just a nice man that’s full of it and doesn’t really understand how things need to happen? That’s the real question. Jesus tells us that he loves us and that love is the only way. Do we believe it?
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a miracle. I’m ready for Jesus to be unleashed and to unleash each one of us. We’ve gotten a glimpse of it in what we see around us. I can’t wait to see more. Who’s ready? Then let’s go! Lead on Jesus.
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on June 26, 2018.