The cultural quest for comfort and convenience is killing American Christianity. Following Jesus is not something done from the ease of a lazy boy chair, with television clicker in hand, waiting for the microwave to ding. Following Jesus is not a walk in the park with butterflies fluttering and sunshine beaming. Jesus made it clear that following him can be an arduous task. After all if they crucified him, the master, then what can we expect our treatment to be like. Following him requires that we be ready and willing to pick up our own cross. That kind of thinking puts followers of Jesus on a collision course with western culture.
Far from embracing struggle and hardship as valuable, our culture has as one of it’s highest values that life should be as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Any hint of struggle, hardship, disappointment, stress, or grief, is taken for evidence that something is seriously wrong. Hardship is to be avoided, pain is to be masked, strain and stress must to be alleviated. Need examples? When did we start giving every child on every Little League or Youth Soccer team a trophy at the end of the season, so that nobody would have their feelings hurt? How about school districts that outlaw the use of red pens by teachers when correcting papers because the color is too traumatizing to students? Are you kidding me?
My point is, we have become soft and that softness of culture has infected the church. In fact, I believe that the Church at large has become so immersed in this cultural value that abhors struggle and hardship that we are literally the proverbial frog in the kettle. Put a frog in comfortable water and ever so slowly raise the temperature and the frog will never notice that it is slowly going to die from the heat. Christians have been having the cultural water of comfort ever so slowly consume us and we are at risk of having any real semblance of the lifestyle of Jesus disappear from our midst altogether.
It all reminds me of the Roberta Flack hit from the 70’s, “Killing Me Softly”. That’s what is happening. We are not dying from a vicious assault that is pummeling us to death. We are not being worn down and traumatized by violent persecution and a daily struggle to live our faith in the face of unrelenting anger. Instead, Christianity in the west is dying from a slow softening of our resolve, strength, courage, and willingness to face the hard realities of life for a greater good.
This cultural value of comfort has been spiritualized in the Church. If anything becomes a struggle or hardship or strain, many will immediately start looking for some Satanic opposition behind the hardship. Why? Because if God was involved wouldn’t it be a huge success, no opposition, only pleasant and joyous? The airwaves are full of preachers telling you that Jesus wants you only to be healthy and wealthy and problem free. Anything less than that is an attack from Satan or a lack of faith on your part.
Even if you don’t buy into the false Gospel of prosperity you may well have been taken in by more subtle ideas. How often have you heard any sense of discomfort getting translated into “not having a peace” about the thing and that God must not be in it. God’s blessing is often evaluated in terms that are borrowed directly from the culture. Peace, comfort, ease, and numerical success, become sure signs that you are one the right track and in Christian terms, that God is blessing you.
I recently returned from a trip overseas where I gathered with 180 church planters who came primarily from countries that are closed to the Gospel and hostile to Christians and Christianity. What a contrast to the softness and comfort seeking of the west. These are people who have lost their jobs because they converted to Christianity. In the west we would be outraged and start suing someone. In their context they took it as a sign of honor that they were truly following Jesus and now had the privilege of trusting him everyday for their needs. I sat and listened to people tell about being arrested and beaten, on multiple occasions, simply because they were following Jesus. How did they respond? With delight that the experience gave them other opportunities to share Jesus with their captors. I heard tales of people having their houses burned down because they followed Jesus and of the blessing it was to the rest of the church because it gave them a chance to demonstrate the love of Christ by helping a brother rebuild. I have shared a meal with one pastor who had to hide in the woods for a month, with people bringing him food, while hoodlums looked for him in order to kill him. We ate at his church to which he returned once things quieted down. Why did he go back? So he could continue to share the Gospel in his village and with the people who hated him.
Have you ever wondered how the generation that Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation” was able to endure and overcome during World War 2? I think a big part of the answer is that generation was coming of age during the Great Depression. They grew up learning that life was a struggle and you had to embrace the hardship and let it shape you. They had survived the Great Depression and when it came time for a bigger challenge, saving the world, even if it meant laying down their lives, they embraced it. Oh to have a church in the west that embraced that kind of mind set. What impact could we have if we sought first, not our comfort, ease, and convenience but instead the Kingdom of God and all it entails, hardship, struggle and all? How different might your life and witness be if you did not always seek your comfort and safety but rather the Glory of God found in carrying your Cross?
17 thoughts on “Killing Me Softly”
As an art teacher in a popular Christian school, I agree with your assessments of our societies’ lack of verve and dedication for the Christ-Life. Thank you for writing!
Wonderful post, Dan. Sad, but accurate. Perhaps your words will set off some wake up alarms!
So well put, Dan. Our culture of softness and comfort has infected the church. There is no “Easy” button. Thanks for always speaking out in truth.
Dan, Thank you for saying this. Anything worth having is worth working for – a strong marriage, a good education, and a real relationship with Christ. We are in a culture that encourages us to take the easiest way, and to be a passive consumer of entertainment. We need to resist to make our lives meaningful.
Thanks for the reminder that it’s not about being “comfortable”, but it’s about being “content” in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). We would die if we had to experience even one day of Paul’s journey… [Glad you were finally able to articulate it. :)]
This reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “The Cost of Discipleship”. The Church is dealing the problem of cheap grace and parents are getting lazy and letting their country become the parents. C.S. Lewis predicts that this kind of over sensitive grey teaching will create men without chests – The Abolition of Man It reminds me that the path is narrow that leads to salvation and broad is the path of destruction. Pray for boldness for our Church to make a stand on what is right.
Wow Dan. Powerful. Thank you for writing this. We need voices like yours!
Where is Jesus? Finally, do not come in time!
I absolutely love this article as our church’s small groups are studying a book along a nearly identical vein. The American dream is completely counter to what a true walk with Christ will look like. It is not supposed to be easy to be a Christian. We are warned of just how difficult the journey will be. But here in this country, we have multi million dollar churches from which sermons are televised across the country. How much of that money could have been used to SHOW others the love of Christ by feeding or clothing or housing them? Am I saying that it’s wrong for us to have nice buildings and comforts and amenities? No. It’s wrong when we place those over going out to make disciples. It’s wrong for us to throw a bunch of money in the collection plate simply because we don’t want to go to China or India or Columbia. We should be putting money in the plate because we truly care that those people are shown Christ’s love. God doesn’t bless us so that we can be happy and comfortable. He blesses us so that we may go and bless others in His name.
Former European misssionary here…agreed!
jesus tomb in Kashmir can you see..
Dear Seo, I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you explain it to me?
Thanks for the comment. I would love to hear more about what you did in Europe.
Great to have you in the discussion on this. Tell me about the church you are connected to and the book you are studying.
Think about being neutral. How a man can fly? Can you show proof. Please think it. If any more details.alislam.org
The Greatest Generation was that of my father and father-in-law. They went to war, both of them fought, one of them was wounded and became a POW, the other managed to get through without a physical wound. I have no doubt that shooting people and blowing them up is a blow to one’s spirit no matter the circumstances. I am thankful that both of them came home and were not turned into hard, cruel men by warfare. Nor were they broken-down hulks resorting to the bottle for comfort. They came back to work and raise families and be good citizens. That generation deserves our honor and respect. But…
When that generation came home, they were weary of fighting. So when the war on morality and tradition was being fought here at home, they were silent. They may have gone to church or not, but they were no more willing to stand up and fight to keep prayer in schools and evolution out of them than we were willing to take the war with Germany and continue it against Russia. Because we did not fight Russia in 1945 (and God knows years of killing and being killed had already taken place) there were millions trapped behind the Iron Curtain, millions slaughtered by Stalin and many more imprisoned or sent to Gulag. Because we stopped fighting in Korea one might say that much of Asia was lost to Communism. I can understand the decision to stop those fights and the certainty that the time to quit killing had come. But…
That generation and my generation and the generation following allowed abortion to be legalized, for the nonsensical concept of “separation of church and state” to be dumbly accepted and Christians to be trivialized in society. We are not really persecuted, we are a laughingstock at times because we say we believe and yet we do not live it. We have watched the Judeo-Christian ethic not simply become abandoned here in the USA, we have even seen heinous sins legalized and promoted and we have sat on our hands.
Actually, you can sit on your couch with a remote control and fight, if you have a blog ministry such as this one. You can get off that couch and go work with youth, as I do, or go feed the homeless, or go to nursing homes or stand on street corners and hand out tracts. There are a thousand things we can do to advance the cause of Christ here in the USA, for they have not yet begun casting us in prison for preaching Christ. If you think it is hard now, wait, for if we do not vote out the ungodly from our government it will begin happening. If we have “hate crimes” now, we will have “thought crimes” soon thereafter.
Would you be a Christian if the police would haul you off to jail for attending church? I blog for Christ, I work in church, but I do not do enough. There is never enough that we can give. All generations now alive need to fight on all fronts for Christ. That means giving time and money to ministry and it means working to vote in the best candidates and it may mean you should get into politics. Do you doubt government is a mission field and a calling? We have missionary friends and we also have friends now going into politics to bring Christ and godly values to State and Federal government. Recently a pastor friend took leave from his church to run for State office. I believe he sees this as a calling. So I ask you, are you willing to fight on all fronts?
…I can identify with the bigger picture, here…but this article struck a chord on a more personal level, as well. I spent most of today trying to reconcile God’s great love with current physical pain…feeling sorry for myself, and trying to figure out the purpose of suffering. I’ve fought a battle to stay in the light, and not let my mind stray to dark and doubtful places. Sadly, it’s becoming an uncomfortable thing to even ask for prayer. Your article mentioned the attitude so many pastors and churches are adopting. How true, for going through pain, seems to carry with it a great stigma, today. One is presumed guilty on some count…simply for having an ailment or facing a trial of any kind. It’s becoming quite religiously incorrect to admit to suffering.
…One thing I am slowly learning, is that truth, that pain of any kind helps one to identify with Christ’s suffering. I know God does not find pleasure in our pain…but sometimes I do wonder, just what he does feel when we approach him crying, asking for relief. I must trust…and believe that easiest is not always best. Easy doesn’t make me stronger…pain doesn’t have to make me weak. Depending on Him for minute by minute grace can grow me. Maybe that’s what God knows, maybe that’s what allows Him to cry with me…and allows Him to freely give all things that are for my good…including the pain…
…Thank you for the timely reminder, Dan…