Terry wears the cap pictured almost everywhere he goes. Some people are obviously delighted to see it, others view it with skepticism, and others frankly are offended. Does not seem to bother Terry in the least and he is delighted when folks comment on it. Gives him just the opening he needs to witness. It is somewhat like the clerical collar other Christian pastors wear. It is a physical reminder of an invisible faith. It does not always make for comfortable situations.
But as C.S. Lewis said:
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
Pastoral ministry has provided Terry and I with much comfort, comfortable times, and comforting people, but not always. In fact, being a Christian pastoral family drives many children of pastors from the institutional church and many from the faith all together. Terry shared some recent statistics on children of Christian pastors that showed 33% of those preacher’s kids (PK’s) from from across the board of Protestant denominations abandoned the church as adults. The number leaving Evangelical Christian Churches was near 90%. Living under the scrutiny of Christian people can be uncomfortable and even painful at times. We are living in a world where being comfortable trumps being Christian a lot of the time.
Several years ago, not so long ago as to take the pain away, Terry and I were called into the pastor’s office by an Elder and dressed down for our insensitivity to a man whose family were members of the church, but he was not. The elder not known for his gentle touch loomed over us, pointing his finger in our faces and told us we made the man uncomfortable…we made him feel guilty…when we went to visit him, he felt we were judging him. We were to back off. Leave him alone. There were lots of words uttered and not one of them held even a touch of kindness. He was angry. We were wrong. We needed to be less holier than thou. We certainly did not live up to his expectations and by implication no one else’s either.
We searched our hearts and our actions for where we had acted judgmental or less than kindly when encountering the man mentioned. After exhausting his complaint, he suggested we not speak to people about Jesus unless we could do it without offending them. We accepted the rebuke, said good-bye, closed up the church and headed to the parsonage, hearts heavy, heads still reeling from his rage. Once there we prayed together and then we talked. Yes we were uncomfortable and frankly I was angry. Terry took my hands in his and he prayed first for the person who had laid into us, asking God to bless him and his family, to heal him of his considerable physical ailments and so on…while Terry prayed I found myself convicted yet again by the Holy Spirit, who suggested my thoughts of raining fire and brimstone down on this Elder of the Church did not fulfill my calling as a Child of God. Alas, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I am not nearly as kind and forgiving as The Lord wants me to be. I took a breath and prayed with Terry accepting God’s forgiveness as I forgave.
Right or Wrong, openly declaring one’s self to be a Christian, openly sharing Jesus, openly speaking against things that break the heart of God will lead to discomfort.
Answering the Non-Christian’s questions about the goodness of an all powerful God in the presence of illness, natural disasters and evil in the world or not feeling adequate to answer them can lead to discomfort.
Facing one’s own pain, frustration, sin, and failures while trying to be Christians–especially when you think you are doing the right thing for the right reasons certainly is not comfortable.
Jesus did not make people comfortable. He often offended people to the point that he died on a Cross. So I have learned that being a Christian does not make me comfortable at least not all the time. Nor does my being a Christian make everyone else comfortable. A little discomfort in an oyster shell eventually produces a pearl. So I am thankful for Christian folks who make me a little uncomfortable so I can improve and for a God that sustains me through whatever happens. I am thankful that the gospel causes some folks discomfort because that may be God working on their hearts. Does not mean Bible bashing or tongue lashing, it just means being faithful to loving and bearing the image of Christ in a hurting world.
I am going to end with a passage of scripture that I love. I understand the crowd’s confusion but I have to go with Peter and the other disciples…uncomfortable or not, Jesus has the Words of Life.
I am not like the bread your ancestors ate. They ate that bread and still died. I am the bread that came down from heaven, and whoever eats this bread will live forever.” When the followers of Jesus heard this, many of them said, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it?” Knowing that his followers were complaining about this, Jesus said, “Does this teaching bother you? Then will it also bother you to see the Son of Man going back to the place where he came from? It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. But some of you don’t believe.” (Jesus knew from the beginning who did not believe and who would turn against him.) Jesus said, “That is the reason I said, ‘If the Father does not bring a person to me, that one cannot come.’ ” After Jesus said this, many of his followers left him and stopped following him. Jesus asked the twelve followers, “Do you want to leave, too?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, who would we go to? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One from God.” (John 6:58, 60-69 NCV)