“Human beings are pattern-seeking animals. It’s part of our DNA,” wrote Adrian McKinty. It’s true, when you look at life. We all have patterns that we live our lives around. Even when we seek to break out of the mold, we’re still governed by patterns. Jesus did have some patterns in his life, yet he could shift the established, comfortable patterns as he saw fit.
Move from comfortable passivity to action
One the things about Jesus is the way he kept shifting things on people. Take a look at Jesus and the lawyer. It’s as if Jesus was say, “Okay. So you’re tempted to feel a bit smug and comfortable that you can identify the two great commandments and get cocky enough to try and put me on the spot with your question,”Who is my neighbor?” What did Jesus do in response? He replied with a story that had an unlikely twist and shifted the question on to the lawyer? The lawyer now had to answer the question, “Who do you think was a neighbor . . . .” Jesus sent him off to “go and do likewise” in Luke 10:25-37.
That story in Luke 10:25-37 is for us as well. We have similar questions. Who is my neighbor? It’s kind of passive, isn’t it? Jesus on the other hand, wants us to be active. Hence, we too have to go and be a neighbor rather than waiting for a neighbor to find us. Now as then, Jesus shifts the question on us, disturbing what is comfortable.
Move from comfortable, established patterns to what’s needful
Jesus followed up his encounter with the lawyer with another shift. In this encounter, he was Martha’s guest. Yet, when Martha appealed to Jesus out of her comfortable understanding of tradition and fairness, Jesus told her that Mary had chosen to do what was better. When you think about it, all Martha wanted was for Mary to do what she was expected to do, what you would expect your group to do when there was work to be done—pitch in and do their part. Moreover, one senses that Mary had broken with tradition by ignoring the regular duties and assuming the posture of student with a teacher. Not at all the feminine thing to do. However, in Luke 10:38-42 Jesus upheld this shift. There no effort to keep things comfortable for Martha.
Following Jesus—expect the uncomfortable
It is not just in Luke 10 that Jesus makes these shifts and turns things around. He does it all over the place. Disturbing what is comfortable for people was his trademark. When a scribe told Jesus that he wanted to follow Jesus, instead of an expected, “How wonderful of you to want to sign up for my movement,” Jesus made it clear that he had no fixed place of abode in Matthew 8:19-20.
Engaging with Jesus, therefore, was filled with the unexpected that disturbed comfortable notions and practices. This carried over into following Jesus. Take that time in Matthew 18:21-22 when Jesus basically told Peter to forget the tradition of limiting forgiveness to seven times but instead to forgive seventy-seven times. How’s that for shifting from the comfortable, easy to do to something different.
Yes. Jesus did the shifts. Jesus was not about people being comfortable and keeping their established patterns. Rather, Jesus was about calling people to live in a way that was consistent with God’s reign of love and God’s justice.
Do you want things to be totally predictable? Do you want to be comfortable all the time? Do you want a safe and certain ministry setting? Do you want to completely figure life out? Maybe following Jesus is not for you. After all, it’s not about what we want and our survival, but the kingdom/reign of God to which Jesus came and bore witness (Matthew 6:25-34). If you do decide that you really want to follow Jesus, then, forget comfortable.
Living fully. Living faithfully. Following Christ.
Image courtesy of chsau240 at pixabay.com
This article was adapted from “Forget Comfortable” by Claire A Smith on MissionAndYouth.Com.