14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
–2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NASB)
Recently I was having a conversation with a pastor who was bemoaning how difficult it is to schedule volunteers for his church’s children’s and hospitality ministries. It’s not that they mind serving if they happen to be in church, it’s just that they don’t want to commit ahead of time, just in case they decide to go somewhere that weekend.
His venting led us into a discussion of “cultural Christianity,” a phrase that I’ve heard more and more lately to describe Christians who want God, but they want Him on their own terms. They want a relationship with God, but it has to be convenient. They want to experience joy, peace, love and all the good stuff, but they shy away from growing and serving.
Not quite what Paul articulated in 2 Corinthians, “so that they who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him…” A little different than our “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” approaches to evangelism. Don’t misunderstand me, God does have a wonderful plan, but wonderful and comfortable are not synonymous.
Ray Comfort uses a powerful analogy to illustrate the importance of approaching the requirements of the Christian life with the right motivation. Two men get on a plane and, once the plane is airborne, are handed parachutes. One is told that the parachute will make his ride more comfortable. The second man is told that the plane is going down and that the parachute will save his life. The first man will chafe under the burden of the parachute and may eventually take it off because his motivation is comfort. The second man, however, won’t take his parachute off for any reason because his motivation is not comfort but survival.
People will chafe under the demands of carrying the cross if their goal is comfort. In recent years our evangelism techniques have centered on the “here and now.” We tell people that life will be better if they accept Christ, that their relationships will get better, they will experience new levels of joy, etc. All of that is true, but the person who comes to Christ for those reasons alone may not only chafe under the rigors of the Christian life, they may even defect eventually.
But when people understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior and that the primary goal of a relationship with Christ is to save us and make us like Jesus, not to make life easier. The person who really understands that basic issue will carry the cross gladly. Who knows… they might even serve in your children’s ministry or on your hospitality team!