I have said before that I like to be comfortable – to live within my comfort zone. Although I have lived in different cultures I don’t exactly like change and strangeness – but I do really enjoy those cultural differences once they become familiar to be me.
I’m in the middle of reading Dave Gibbons book ‘The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church’. I really love the idea of being third culture – it is based on the idea of mission kids who live with their feet in two cultures and develop for themselves a third, kind of best of both. However there is one part that has me uncomfortable – his theology of discomfort. I understand the principle but I’m not entirely comfortable with it – perhaps it is just semantics? Let me explain. Gibbons rightly says that Jesus lived an uncomfortable life:
If any word epitomizes Jesus’ life, it’s discomfort, from the beginning – his birth amid poverty, in a bed of straw, into a hostile world – to the end – his death, by the Via Dolorosa, full of shame, sacrifice, humility, pain, betrayal, and rejection. (pg 78)
He goes on to say:
Jesus chooses to be identified with people who are on the outside looking in those whom most people of his day felt uncomfortable being around and justified in ignoring. (pg 82)
Gibbons rightly challenges us to move outside our comfort zone and to love those who we are uncomfortable with – however this is also where I have an issue. I don’t think that Jesus was actually uncomfortable with any of these people – he was at home with the tax collectors & prostitutes and equally at ease amongst the religious elite. Likewise the Apostles spread the Gospel amongst the wealthy influential as well as the poor and enslaved. I think our discomfort is actually sin. When we are uncomfortable with people it is because they are not the same as us – their difference scares us. I agree with Gibbons that we need to reach out to all people – even if they are radically different than us, but perhaps rather than moving out of our comfort zone we need to have our comfort zone radically expanded? We need to see others not through our own eyes which judge people and assess their worth and value, but rather through the eyes of God who despite our sin loves us.
We need to see our commonalities – we have all sinned, we are all in the same boat despite our different races, genders, economic statuses, cultures.
Romans 3:22-24 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
That is Good News we have to share and live out.
Lord, help me, by your Spirit, expand my comfort zone – to love others the way you do and to be comfortable with any person because they are loved by You.