We come to God for comfort, peace, a way to live in a harsh world.
And God says Yes, always Yes.
But what do we really seek? We are human. We inevitably seek the shortest, most obvious way, which seems will take less effort. And, in our pain and need to survive, it tends to be all about us. We can take the cheap option and miss the deeper pleasures of life.
Some theologies reward this. If we "say the magic words," and believe, affirm, say the right thing, we will be saved. There will be some shibboleths— don't smoke or don't drink... whatever, but as long as we fit the mores or habits of our group.
These theologies have two underlying effects. One is that they demand little change in us outside of the group mores. Any group wants stability, not change and its discomfort. The other implication is that theology and faith are an intellectual exercise; that is, we can master them by intellect and by adhering to various doctrines.
It seems to work because if we can swallow the doctrines and group requirements we feel inclusion, approval, and some reduction of anxiety. Church can be entertaining. The contacts of a wider group can be a bit like being a Mason or KSC: employment contacts etc can improve. There can be the relief of a well-defined set of rules to live by, for which we are constantly approved.
But it is a short cut. It makes faith all about us. By contrast Isaiah said
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
It's not about us.
And Jesus said
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8)
You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10)
God wants good for us. The world was created good. Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. (Matt 11:28) But the path is not to master Christianity but to be mastered by it, to undergo it and be changed, and to make the entirely counter-intuitive discovery that this comfort leads a deep and profound richness which far exceeds that of the faith which remains "about us."
Andrew Prior (2019)
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