We hear sermons about getting out of our personal comfort zones on a regular basis. I have heard this line of discipleship multiple times over the last 35+ years while listening to good evangelical and conservative sermons. Whole books have been written on the subject of “Christian comfort zones.” And, as good Christians we respond and do something uncomfortable. Rarely, however, do we actually leave our comfort zones; but, merely do something uncomfortable (a checked box on our discipleship list) within our daily, livable comfort zones. What is totally missed: our comfort zone safety-net is left in place so we always have a backup to go home to after we do our uncomfortable deeds.
In the sphere of discipleship, it is not the “personal comfort zones” that Christians are called out of that is at issue. The problem lies in why are Christians living in them in the first place.
Serious discipleship, biblical discipleship calls us in a wholly more radical direction when it comes to comfort zones. It seems to me that the Christ-life, the call of the gospel, the missional nature of the church, the love of Christ compels the christian and the gathered church to enter into the deplorable, systemically uncomfortable space of the least among us, the ones by default, poor decisions (theirs or others), malice, birth, political corruption, demographic disparity, and ecclesiastical avoidance do not have the safety net of a comfort zone to go home to. The issue is not your comfort zone. But, it is the lack of comfort zones among our under-resourced neighbors and neighborhoods and among those who lack the privilege of a comfort-zone to return home to when life and living is uncomfortable.
The question always confronts the Christian and every church gathered: who is your neighbor?
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.