I had the privilege yesterday to talking to Ruth Padilla DeBorst, author of this Christianity Today article that will wow and woo you. What challenged me most were her views about the gospel and seeking a comfortable life.
I admit it. I live a comfortable life. There were years and times I didn’t. France certainly wasn’t comfortable. When I ventured alone to Malaysia as a twenty-something, I certainly felt outside of comfort. Even going to Ghana with my son stretched me. But now I live in a suburb and am deeply happy here. So her words stirred me.
“Love does not reach from afar. It demands incarnation,” she said. She believes our gated communities and higher walls and easy lifestyles serves as insulators from the world’s problems. That those walls, whether erected or artificial, make for a fearful society, not a kingdom society.
She and her family have chosen directly to live in a transitional neighborhood. “We’re slowly starting with a tutoring program with kids. We believe that we need to engage with people. It’s not just a subject we talk about or study; it’s a reality. We do it by engaging with real people.”
I loved that she asked us to “find natural bridges to engage with people outside our circle of comfort and protection.”
She encourages us to think widely about God and His surprising use of the church to bring about His restoration. “I am constantly shaken and in awe of this as I’ve been studying Ephesians. It’s amazing that God would choose to make his cosmic purposes in Christ work on earth through this crazy thing that’s called the church. That He would choose to make that grand scheme become effective and real and visitble and touchable and smellable through us,” she said. “That’s daunting and exhilarating at the same time. But that’s what he’s saying and doing. We, the people of God, are His temple, His presence in the world. We are the visible sign of His good purposes in creation. So how we live, and how we relate to or don’t relate to people who are in the margins, shows God’s plan. If we are able to bring the marginalized into our circle of belonging, we bring evidence of Christ.”
I admit to letting the marginalized be marginalized. I admit to letting my culture insulate me from the needs of this world. I admit to sometimes seeing the Gospel through an American cultural lens. I admit to worshiping comfort over the lordship of Jesus.
Ruth says that we tend to reduce the gospel to what is comfortable to us, what doesn’t demand much stretching. “Until the church is ready to get out our circles of comfort, we’re not really contributing to God’s agenda in the world,” she said.
Mind if I pray?
Dear Jesus, I like comfort. I like ease. I don’t like extending myself as I should, to messy myself in the cares of others. Forgive me for reducing the Gospel to meeting my own needs, seeking my own comfort. Help me to see it as You reaching out to all humankind, wooing us all, beseeching us to reconcile to You. Help me to care for my brothers and sisters around the world who live in the margins. Help me to see them in my neighborhood, my town, my city, my state, my country, my continent, my world. Open my eyes. Help me to have dirty hands, yet a clean heart. Dirty my hands with the needs of this world and cleanse my heart from pride and ease and that which is safe. I love You Jesus. I’m stirred by Ruth’s message. Love others through me. Amen.