Consecration through Being Uncomfortable
My wife and I have visited so many churches over the years, some with impeccable doctrine and beautiful liturgy. I personally (without my wife) have been going to one particular church for three years now that fits those impeccable characteristics, yet amazingly, I feel that if I was to suddenly stop going tomorrow, I'm not sure if anyone would even notice! Similarly, my family and I attended one particular church for two years. Eventually we decided to move on to another church, and guess what? Not one single person called us and let us know that they were sorry to see us go. I even wrote the pastors to tell them we were moving on with a kind letter, and they didn't even respond. Yes, it is astonishing.
Now I'm not writing this because I want to vent frustration at these congregations. I'm certainly not blameless in either instance. I haven't been the best at trying to develop relationships either. I'm writing this because in order to further the kingdom of heaven, we all must learn how to be uncomfortable for the sake of others.
Compare those instances with my family's present situation. Together, we attend another church that professes almost no doctrine and has only the most simple liturgy, yet Christ's love pours out of these people. They want to know us, because they have Christ's love in their heart. It's a reminder to all of us what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13
Moses didn't want to speak with his stammering tongue. Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh. Martha didn't feel comfortable just sitting and listening to Jesus at his feet. Peter didn't want to eat meat in the homes of Gentiles. Each of these Saints were admonished by God and told to be uncomfortable for the sake of doing God's will.
We must sit in a different pew, pray with a stranger, kneel next to the tattooed destitute, walk along with the street teenager, love the disabled, and preach the gospel to the rich and wealthy. "No, that's not my job," we convince ourselves. But that lie comes from Satan. It is all of our jobs.
Remember, consecration happens when we take the common elements of this world and allow God to transform them into what is holy and sacred. This happens through an act of God, by our faith and obedience to him. The common element is not only the person you are befriending for Jesus, but it is also you. You are made holy by obeying God and acting in faith. By ministering God through love, we consecrate the world. It's just like the Eucharist. When that sacrament enters us, it is God entering us and making the sinner whole again. We minister God by the Holy Eucharist of love. When we love another for God's purpose, we feed Christ into another.
Just like feeding a baby, we may or not see any effect. Our love may dribble down their chin. They may even spit it out. But that's okay. Through faith, we know that we are whetting their lips to God's love.
I find in my experiences that there's some reluctance in liturgically high churches to being uncomfortable for the sake of Christ. I'm not saying that we should dumb-down liturgy or doctrine to make others comfortable. But what we must do is develop a culture of being free in Christ. Paul explains to the Galatians, "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." Being free in Christ doesn't mean allowing anything and everything. What Paul means is that the yoke of the law kills our relationship with the Spirit. When we think that following rules or a tight structure is what keeps us in line and saves us, we are yoked by the law. But when we follow the Spirit first, then we are truly free. The moral law then comes naturally because we are free to live in Christ.
When free we can truly love others. When free we can truly worship God. When free we can pray properly, which means we can ask Jesus and hear his responses with unyoked ears. We can be free to be uncomfortable for God. In our church culture we must perpetuate that freedom so people can follow the Spirit.
If a child doesn't feel free to talk to his mommy or daddy, he bottles up all kinds of pain and confusion. We must truly be free to listen and have open arms for those who are in the most need of God.
Can we take the leap of faith and be uncomfortable for God? We can because we know he will never forsake us. Never.
"It is the LORD who marches before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."