"We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…" - 2 Corinthians 6
On my first day of preaching class back in seminary the professor read this passage. And then he said, "That's what the first Christians endured in order to preach the Gospel…you'll probably survive this class."
Sometimes we contemporary Christians make the mistake of thinking we have it rough. We have to compete with Sunday morning baseball games and yoga classes. Our pews aren't full the way they were back in 1950. Our kids can't even sing "Silent Night" at school anymore! Some even say that modern American Christians are being "persecuted."
Except, really, we modern American Christians are pretty darn comfortable. And don't tell your angry uncle who is railing against gay marriage and political correctness at Easter dinner this, but calling yourself Christian in our culture is one of the easiest things you can do.
That's too bad, because the church actually doesn't do very well when things are easy for it. Look back at nearly every time the church has been on the wrong side of history: the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, slavery, gay rights. What do those things have in common? When each happened, the church was in a position of having great strength and influence in society.
But on the other hand, look at the times churches got it right: Black Christians in the Civil Rights movement. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany. Oscar Romero standing at the altar. They were hated, targeted, outnumbered, and sometimes they may as well have signed their own death warrants. But they were being the church in a way few of us ever will.
The church does not thrive in comfort. The church thrives when it is being called to the messy and painful work of transforming the world. Why? Because that's when we are witnessing to the One who transcends all the injustice of the world, and who gives us strength to teach a new way.
O God, please make the church uncomfortable enough to once again do our best work. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.