Our family was invited to dinner recently at the home of some new friends. They lived in a quiet neighborhood that was growing. The husband told me not long after they moved in one of the neighbors came over and told him about a weekly Bible study several of them were having together and asked if he and his wife wanted to join. He said honestly the idea of doing that didn’t appeal to him, but they tried it and now one week he goes and meets with the men. The next week she goes and meets with the ladies.
They did something that is hard for people in America to consider: They mixed their lives together with the people living next to them, across from them, and down the street. It’s uncomfortable getting close to people who live so close to you. After all, they may jog by and hear your arguments. They may be out back grilling and hear you yell at your kids. They may be mowing and smell your burned dinner. Why mix with them? For discipleship!
We were at another friend’s house helping them move in. After transporting some heavy items from their old place to the new place, their van just stopped working. It wouldn’t crank at all. I asked, “Do you have any jumper cables?” They didn’t have any. I asked, “Are you comfortable with asking your neighbors if they have some?” A look of concern crossed her face. She didn’t want them to think her family was the needy family on the block. She communicated the truth about why discipleship may be hard for many people. It’s just uncomfortable mixing your life with someone else.
The picture of lives of new Jesus-followers being mixed described from Acts 2:42-47 seems so serene from the outside. It looks perfect as we imagine it, like the Rembrandt painting of the Last Supper, everyone posing for the snapshot as they were sharing and enjoying one another. But I wonder if the way the Bible describes it is more like a Facebook post. Everything looks and sounds amazing on Facebook. According to your Profile photo, your family is perfect. Your children are perfect. Your marriage is perfect. And you are perfect. I’m not saying the Bible is being dishonest or omitting the facts to manipulate the truth. I’m just saying in 41 years I have come to know human nature when we are called to mix our lives together. It’s uncomfortable. But discipleship goes beyond comfort to bring forth maturity.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:8 as Paul explains why crossing the barrier of comfort was important in making disciples, “Because we loved you so much”. In the three years that we have been preparing to uproot ourselves and move to Italy to become disciple-makers overseas, God has challenged my levels of social comfort with His even greater Love.
I’m an introvert by nature and I don’t feel comfortable in large crowds. I thrive on alone time and quiet rooms. Being in crowded and noisy environments exhausts me personally. IT sucks my strength and makes me want to escape. But God won’t let me escape like I want to now that He is building a community around my family. People I didn’t know 6 months ago are high-fiving me. Families we didn’t know last year are inviting us over for dinner. It makes me uncomfortable. I get visibly nervous as I work my way into it.
But, what gives me the courage to surrender to it is knowing these people who want to be with me really love me so much. It’s incredibly disarming. I spend half of my time in community with them in disbelief. Disbelief that I’m living in community. The love of God breaks through.
In America, we treasure comfort. We don’t want to get too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter. We need just enough funds in our bank account. We want our refrigerator and pantry to be full. We create our own safety through planning our careers, planning our families, planning our retirement. But God doesn’t treasure comfort the way we do. He treasures Himself and His image being seen in us.
If becoming more intimate in our walk with Jesus is important to you, then comfort should become less and less important to you. Mixing your life with the lives of others who want to follow Jesus and those who don’t yet follow Jesus has to be important to you.