I have a question for you. Would you rather have a lollipop for free, or have me kick you in the shins once, then get a Camaro?
Now, I don’t have any Camaros to send out, but I’m guessing many of us would choose the latter (even if you don’t like Camaros, you can probably sell it and buy more than one lollipop). Unfortunately, looking at my life, I seem to be living like I would choose the lollipop.
Let me explain.
Everyone hates pain. Well, at least, most people do. And here in the West, as the marriage of church and state dissolves and secularism rises, we seem to have agreed that suffering is the only universal evil. Without a dominant religion to govern, we have had to drill down to what everyone can buy into, and the idea we found is that almost everyone hates pain.
Fair enough. If there wasn’t a car on the line, I probably wouldn’t let you kick me in the shins either.
The problem comes when we let that idea – that suffering is the ultimate evil – overcome everything else we believe. It causes us to avoid the shin-kick so vehemently that we would choose the lollipop over the car.
For instance: we believe in a kind, loving God. I believe this to be completely true. But when we think that suffering is the MOST evil thing in existence, we cannot believe that God, who is loving, would allow us to suffer, let alone send us pain to strengthen and refine us. We end up ignoring GREAT swathes of the Old Testament (and considerable parts of the New) to validate our belief that we should not suffer. We exchange the completeness of the Bible for a creation of our own.
This is a problem here in North America. We are so focused on God’s blessings that we have created idols from them. We are all for giving to the poor, unless that would cost us a little of our comfort. We believe the orphans should be looked after…by someone else. We are too busy for another kid right now, and having another child, especially one not of our blood, would be too much of a hassle.
Don’t get me wrong, God DOES bless his children. I believe that, if we were to actually live like Jesus taught, life would be a whole lot easier for us. Not without pain and suffering, but definitely easier. And that’s my issue. We don’t live like Christ taught us because it might cause us a little pain in the immediate future. We withhold trust because letting people in makes us vulnerable to hurt. We don’t give sacrificially because we don’t want to miss out on trips and coffees and gifts. We don’t step out and actually talk about Jesus because we might be ridiculed and suffer socially.
But we must come back to the truth that suffering is not the Greatest Evil.
The Greatest Evil is that we turn our backs on that which is Good.
There is an Evil that threatens us, that chases us, and will devour us if we let him. He uses our own selfishness to drown others by means of our lust for pleasure and comfort. We turn in on ourselves and ignore what God has called us to. We ignore the helpless while inoculating ourselves to their cries for help.
And this – this turning our back on God for our own selfish ambition – will cost some of us eternal salvation.
So, what do we do about this? In an age of instant gratification and readily available medical supplies to numb us to our pain, how do we embrace suffering for the cause of the Gospel? Can we choose to turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and actually reach out to someone in need? Even if that causes us some pain, some hardship, and some time in uncertainty?
Can we withstand a moment of shin-kicking for the mission that God has sent us on?
God promises that the rewards will be worth it.