Archive for May, 2011

Easy Chair Theology?

Having been an armchair quarterback for years, I am now learning that I am an easy-chair Christian.  Somewhere along the way I got the idea that if God loves me, he will make me comfortable, give me an easy life, and remove all obstacles to my happiness.   As one Jesus follower discovered:

I saw myself as a comfort-worshipping idolater.  I did those things, even things for God, that kept or made me comfortable.  My false gods were comfort and peace.

Bob Baldwin’s words resonated with me when I read them in Alan Hirsch’s and Michael Frost’s new book entitled The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage.  Please don’t misunderstand, Hirsch and Frost are not calling Christians to take up extreme sports such as cliff diving or base jumping. Instead, it is joining Jesus in his mission of mercy and grace for the world.  They demonstrate that the call to follow Jesus is the call to adventure that doesn’t sit well with our American-Pursuit-of-Happiness-and-Comfort theology.  When we trace the ministry of Jesus and look at how he trained and equipped his disciples, we see an astonishing push toward risk that requires courage and faith.  He seemed determined to get the disciples into boats where they would be brought to the end of themselves and where they could discover their deep need of him.  He pushed them into missional assignments that placed them in danger and tested their spiritual mettle.

Indeed, this seems to be God’s way from the very beginning.  He commanded Abram to leave everything familiar behind and go to the place he would show him. God sent Paul out as a missionary adventurer to places where he would be whipped and jailed and stoned and shipwrecked.  God gave Jeremiah a message that would get him thrown in prison and would cause his own family to ditch him.  And, think about Israel.  Their experience was one adventure after another: trusting God to provide food in the desert, to bring water from a rock, and to defeat an opposing army when they had no weapons to defend themselves.

Now these are things that the easy-chair-seeking-American in me does not want to hear.  I feel more Hobbit than Christian.  Do you?  Of course, Hobbits have no use for adventures.  Perhaps, just perhaps, this is why so many Christians become disillusioned and walk away from the church.  We have taken the life out of what it means to follow Jesus, to be on adventure with him.  Frodo Baggins learned that it is a dangerous thing to step outside your door.  Who knows where the path may lead.  Indeed, who knows where Jesus’ path may lead?

Bob Baldwin was shaken out of his spiritual lazyboy when God pushed him and his wife Carol into the adventure of their lives.  God got him involved loving his poor neighbors, risking his reputation, and courageously facing the needs of people not at all like him.  In the process he was pushed to a level of discipleship that Jesus wants all of us to experience.

Now with the whole idea of adventure dancing in my head, I think of going to Africa or some place else very far away.  But, Jesus’ mission begins with your neighborhood and the community in which you live. It begins with listening to the needs of your neighborhood, saying “yes” to opportunities to converge your life with that of your neighbors, and sharing God’s grace in word and deed.