Jesus Can Be So Inconvenient
We may be too pious to say it, but Jesus’ demands on our lives can often seem very inconvenient. Jesus serves as the ultimate disruptor, challenging us to do things in ways that, at our core, we might find unreasonable. He seems to be a God who specializes in inconveniencing his followers. In an age where everything is marketed and packaged for ease of consumption, Jesus’ words cut against the grain. It’s almost like he’s making life harder for us.
It seems that Jesus loves placing burdens on people. He tells a pious rich man that if he wants treasure in heaven, he needs to sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor and then follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21). Hitting a little closer to home, He tells me that rather than hating my enemies, I’m supposed to love and pray for them (Matthew 5:44-48). On top of this, he disrupts my agenda in life, saying that I’m supposed to be part of a global discipling movement (Matthew 28:19-20). Now rather than just trying to lead my life as a good person, he’s subverted my whole agenda saying that making disciples (something I hadn’t been planning to do) is more important.
Why Jesus Inconveniences Us?
Why do Jesus’ demands seem so inconvenient? I would suggest that inconvenience grows out of places where my obligations don’t line up with my values. I don’t complain about the inconvenience of showering in the morning, because I see hygiene as valuable, so I’m willing to spend 15 minutes to make myself feel clean and smell fresh. But when someone imposes obligations on me, I might not value the end goal that that obligation is trying to achieve. For example, If I’m really busy at work and my boss tells me to write up reports that will get filed somewhere and never read, I might resent the extra work. I’ve got better things to do with my time. The benefit doesn’t seem to justify the effort, so the obligation seems inconvenient.
So what should we make of the inconveniences that Jesus seems to impose upon us? Obligations typically arise out of values. Jesus doesn’t call me to pick up my cross and follow him because crosses are cool, rather he sees value in it. He knows that it is only as as I learn to serve the other in God’s name, that the other will see what God’s really like. Moreover, learning to turn aside from what seems good for me to invest others will help me shed the selfishness that keeps me isolated. The values that God places on people knowing his love and being transformed justifies the obligation of commanding me to take up my cross and follow Jesus.
Hope when Jesus Inconveniences Us
When my heart chafes at the obligations God has placed on me, it’s a sure sign that my heart has places where it still holds up values from my parent culture above the values that God has in mind. To use an analogy, if I start a job as a ditch digger and find that, at the end of the first day, my back is killing me, then the pain helps me to clearly understand what part of my body is weakest with respect to the task I’m trying to carry out. But the pain doesn’t just point out where I’m weak, it also carries with it a promise: If I stick to ditch-digging, then eventually my back will grow stronger, probably seeing a greater gain in strength and stamina than the parts of my body that weren’t challenged by this heavy labour. In the same way, inconvenience shows me the places where my heart belongs to the world, rather than to God, but if I follow God’s instructions to love and serve others, even in ways I find inconvenient, he promises that it is precisely in this place of weakness that I will see the greatest transformation. When God calls me to inconvenience, he’s inviting me into a place where he deals with my greatest shortcomings as a Christian. Inconvenience is God’s discipline. We can take comfort then in the words of the author of Hebrews: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 NIV). That pain I’m feeling is the sensation of transformation. If I accept it, it is a good gift from God that shapes me into the person he’s always intended for me to be.