Needing a Bigger Discomfort
I am uncomfortable, at times, with living in contrast to the world. There exists in me a residual desire - shrinking but still there - to be friends with the world. I’m much more comfortable standing in contrast to this or that denomination than against the philosophies of this world. I need to grow in tolerating the discomfort of being increasingly different from this world that continues to drift away from a biblical view of reality.
I suspect I’m not the only one with this “intolerance of the discomfort of being different”. We show this intolerance in many ways, one of which is being consumed in churchy activities and leaving little room for unbelievers in our lives. We insulate ourselves from what displeases us, and we get rusty in our relationships with “outsiders”.
Underneath this intolerance is a theological problem: I’m not seeing reality from a biblical point of view either. I need a bigger discomfort. If being different is my greatest discomfort in a given social situtation, I’m blind (or forgetful) of a more terrifying reality: that the person in front of me is imprisoned to their own will. They possess an inherent insanity that desires only the creation, versus the Creator. And this “bondage to the will”, as Luther put it, leaves them under God’s wrath. Hell will be simply the full flowering of this imprisonment to one’s own desires. Even in the full, futile torment of that eternal place, no one will plead for mercy or a second chance.
Of course this should elicit love in us. Love gives what the other needs most - the world most needs the gospel. But how? For one, the world needs to see an alternate reality, an “alternate Salt Lake City” - in us. A taste of heaven, with Christ in the center. Therefore unbelievers must have a natural, welcome place in our life together. Therefore we must develop greater tolerance for the discomfort of being around those who are different. Thus we need a bigger discomfort. Thus we must “no longer regard [anyone] according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16), but according to the spiritual realities that were made to comprehend when we ourselves were saved: “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (v. 17). If we ponder our own salvation, we won’t recoil from differences. Instead, we will learn to tolerate the discomfort, and learn to be great friends, learning from our mistakes, always learning how to make the gospel great news.