I live an extremely comfortable life. I’d be willing to bet that you do as well. There are probably things that you want in life that you don’t have. And, if you’re like me, those things consume quite a bit of time and energy. After all, isn’t that the “American Dream?” We deserve more. We see life through the lens of complacency. It’s difficult to truly feel your need for a Savior when your cupboards are full. Even if they’re not as full as we would like or they’re not full of what we might prefer.
As a pastor, I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about and praying for the people God has placed in our church family. I desperately want to see our people make a difference in the world in the power of the Gospel. We often tell people that Church of the Cross exists to see the NW Valley of the Phoenix area transformed through the Gospel. This, of course, means that we must first be transformed. This only happens through regular rehearsal of the Gospel, dwelling on our need, our sin in contrast with the power of the Cross. We must learn to be self-aware, to identify our idols and nail them to the Cross that we might bear them no more.
By God’s grace, I have grown tremendously in my own “Gospel Wakefulness” (to quote a friend) over the past couple of years. And I can humbly say that the same is true for many in our church family. We are beginning to see people regularly “gospel” one another. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we as entire church family are yet “Gospel Fluent” (to quote another friend), though we are learning and growing.
As the Gospel penetrates deeper into my heart, I am becoming less and less comfortable with my comfortable life. I’m not saying that Christians have no right to live in Suburbia or that we should sell everything and go live in the slums. But, if the Gospel really is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), transforming us through the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) then, wouldn’t it be a valid implication that our hearts should become more like God’s? If that’s the case, can our church family be content with simply having a heart for the NW Valley of Phoenix? Should any local church only have eyes for their immediate context? Especially when one of the implications of the Gospel is justice? Shouldn’t our hearts break for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45) even if they’re not in our immediate context?
Mark Labberton’s book The Dangerous Act Of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through The Eyes of Jesus has powerfully reminded me just how big the Gospel is; that we are swept into a story much bigger than our own lives. And yet, I am so often simply content to dwell on my own discontent. But what might it look like if Christians (and by extension, churches) took injustice seriously. What if we learned to see beyond our own lenses and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15)? What if we got involved? What if we cared?
I think that’s the reality that has wrecked my heart of the past few days. As Labberton points out, ”The ubiquitousness of injustice can make it seem benign. That’s the problem.” Injustice so often seems to me to be “their” problem, not mine. But it goes deeper than this, as Labberton asserts: ”It turns out a person can have unlimited access to food, water and shelter and still feel that life is miserable.” If, as Cornel West says: “Justice is what love looks like in public,” then I want to see our church family pursue justice anywhere and everywhere we can. We certainly have resources. We certainly have time. I’m just not sure I have the love.
Is it fair to say that if our hearts were truly wrecked about injustice in the world that churches would act? Is it a fair correlation then, to say that, the reason so many American churches do not act is because e don’t care? Injustice is often fairly removed from our lives, therefore it does not impact us. What if our churches were intentional about placing ourselves in regular contact (as Labberton says: “The urgency of injustice could not be greater than when it is experienced every day.”) with “the least of these”?
How can we move beyond complacency to gospel-fueled action? Or are we fine just the way we are?