Friday, September 17, 2010

Stepping Out Of Our Comfort Zone

We are a people who enjoy our comfort but it is our desire for comfort that could be causing a number of problems for our mission. Not many of us are willing to set aside the things we are familiar with in order to move into the things that we find challenge us. I am discovering as I get older I am actually challenging many of the things in my life against the Word of God and I am finding many disturbing habits from which I need to step away. Even many of my approaches to people and situations along with my perspectives are often being challenged these days. I have been a creature of comfort but there are many ways that is changing.

It is an easy thing to be involved with people of similar interest and beliefs. It is like putting on your favorite outfit or your most comfortable slippers. We refer to this group as homogeneous, and it is greatly encouraged in the Church. We develop cell groups that way, we have women's ministries, youth groups, mom's & tot's, senior's groups, and we minister to these groups that have much in common. It makes it hard for us then to function in our mission in the world as we find it hard to associate with those outside of the Church, those who do not fit into our interest group or perhaps economic group. Sure, we will minister to them but we would never actually allow them to enter into our world. Do you see what I am saying? We will take food and enter the world of the homeless but we would never invite the homeless home into our world.

However, if you are at least making the effort to enter into their world I applaud you because many of us do not even attempt that much. We have this thought that if we remain separate and live a righteous life, people will naturally see Jesus in us and we don't have to leave our comfort zone. Can we honestly believe that is how Jesus saw it when he told us to go and make disciples? Let's consider one incident that may help you see better.

Jesus entered a region of Palestine referred to as the Decapolis, a group of ten Greek cities that were aligned with each other that obviously had a large population of Greeks. As Jesus approached he was confronted by a demon possessed man. Matthew's account referred to two demon possessed men. The demons recognized Jesus' authority and begged not to be sent back to where they came from; they would even rather possess animals then go back. It is here that we note just how much this region is filled with Gentiles or Hellenists as Jesus sent the demons into a nearby herd of pigs. No proper Jew would ever be found tending pigs. At this point let's pick it up with Matthew's account:

Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:33-34)

This is a rather strange reaction compared to how Jesus was received in the other regions. This was an obvious display of authority that would have been gladly received in any of the cities of Galilee. However, the majority of these people would have little knowledge of Jehovah or his prophets and did not share in the same expectancy of the promised Messiah. This certainly was not a region that was in step with many of the other regions of Palestine and would have been uncomfortable for many of the disciples even to be standing there with Jesus. But Jesus did not come to be comfortable. He did not come to keep his hands clean and his clothes white. Jesus' coming into our world was not natural and was uncomfortable from the beginning to the end. He hung out with those who were his enemies, and I am not referring the the religious elite. I am referring to people like you and me, who were ignorant of Jehovah and led a life of sin and degradation. Jesus hung out with the simple folk as well as the elite and it was all uncomfortable for him, seeing that he is the Son of our heavenly Father.

We should be asking why Jesus would even attempt to go to these ten Greek cities, considering how far out of the homogeneous group they were. The reason is because he had come to bring the good news to all the Jews regardless where they were and what they were involved in. He was limited to the Jews because that was the purpose of his mission. As the Apostle Paul said, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. After Jesus finished his mission he turned to his followers and told them now to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples. When the Church failed to follow this command, because they were enjoying their homogeneous group in Jerusalem, a persecution of the Church was permitted to scatter them to the ends of the earth.

These are simple things to take note of and to act upon. If Jesus could leave his comfort to enter into our world, a world filled with rampant sin and filthiness, it can't be all that tough for us to step out of our homogeneous groups to befriend those who may make us feel uncomfortable at first. Near the end Jesus told his disciples that he now called them friends. It was not because they were any better than they were at the beginning. Remember they were about to betray and deny him. It was because Jesus had entered their world, took them on, became part of their lives, became very close, loved them and called them friends. We need to follow his example even though it may be the thing that costs us the most in our entire lives; to allow people we are not comfortable with, to become our friends. It is an incredible way to introduce the lost to Jesus.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Paul, once again you have written a graceful and Christ-honoring post encouraging us to allow Jesus to be Himself thru us.

One of the things that I have had to learn is that as a disciple of Jesus, I needed to not just "visit" the world, but live in it, while not being of it.

I think we resist this because it leaves us feeling odd and foreign, like we don't belong. Which we don't. To choose to live in a "place" where we do not belong or fit in and never will is a challenge. To choose to do it out of love for our Lord, and a passion to see people set free from the bondage of sin and destruction is Christ-like.

Thanks again for a great message.