Nell spent three months in Tanzania earlier this year, with our partner Go MAD. Now, back in the UK and studying Theology at Durham, Nell looks at what it means to be a comfortable Christian…
When I think of being comfortable, I think of being curled up on the sofa in my slippers with a large mug of hot chocolate. I think of warmth and safety. I think of peace and quiet and a good book. When I think of being comfortable, I don’t often think of church. But maybe I should.
Church is often very comfortable.
Being a Christian here and now is often very comfortable. It’s warm and it’s safe and often, it’s full of PLU (People Like Us). It’s cushioned, and promises good things. It challenges us, yes, but only on a level that we’re comfortable with.
Only up to a point. Because we’re British, and we don’t really say what we mean. We don’t do ‘blunt’ and ‘honest’ and ‘challenging’ very well. But I think it’s time to change that. Because God does blunt. God does honest. And God most definitely does challenging.
Proverbs 17:15: He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Jeremiah 22:3: Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
Micah 6:8: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Psalm 82:2-4: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?’ Selah. Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked
Proverbs 14:31: Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honours him.
Deuteronomy 16:19-20: You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
The list goes on. Those are just a handful of verses from the Old Testament alone about what we are called to do. 1/12 verses in the Gospel of Luke are about tackling injustice. It is the second most common theme in the entirety of the Bible, the first being the call to love God. This all seems pretty clear to me – if you love God, you hate injustice.
If you love God, you are not happy with the world as it is. If you love God, you strive for fairness and equality in all things.
If you love God, you follow his heart for the widow, the orphan, the destitute, the downtrodden. If you love God, you won’t stay silent. If you love God, you won’t stay comfortable.
But comfortable is, well, comfortable, isn’t it? It’s safe, and warm, and cosy. Except when you realise that your comfort comes at the cost of someone else’s life. When you realise that the 7 million tonnes of food that we throw away each year could be used to feed the 3 million children per year who die of malnutrition, or the 1 in 7 people who go to bed hungry every day. That your new jumper was woven by the hands of a child who should be in school. That your phone was built with metal sourced by slaves.
And it’s not just in these far off places, not just over the other side of the world. The fact of the matter is that it’s happening right outside your door. 1.6 million children in the UK grow up in severe poverty. 4.8 million people in the UK are paid less than a living wage. 2,255 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in the UK in 2012. 549 of these were children. The list goes on.
Comfortable doesn’t feel so comfortable any more, does it? We cannot sit in church and praise the God of justice and remain comfortable. Because comfortable does not spur action. Passion spurs action. Honesty spurs action. And above all, love spurs action. We cannot love God and stay comfortable.
Don’t be a comfortable Christian. Don’t sit there on the sofa in your slippers with your mug of hot chocolate and despair at how big the problem is. Get up, and walk to the edge of your comfort zone. Then take one more step. Because when you leave your comfort zone, you walk straight into the heart of God.