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Leaving Comfort

I was looking through some of my old files this morning, and I came across this theological reflection that I wrote in stream-of-consciousness style about three years ago.  I found it very interesting to read it again.  This is spot-on.  Forgive the lack of paragraph division.  I wanted to leave it unedited.

It seems that there are three sort of categories of living or behaving: holy, neutral (worldly), and wicked. It would be best to define the extremes by defining the center. The central category (neutral or worldly) can best be described as those actions or that lifestyle which is neither toward God nor toward evil. It is a lifestyle that is mainly concerned with and full of what most would call ‘good things’. Included in this would be reading non-dirty fiction novels or newspapers, watching family-friendly television (e.g. Everybody Loves Raymond), eating, sleeping, spending time with family, participating in sports or exercise, having sex with a spouse, watching PG-rated movies, and working on a hobby. The best word to describe this kind of life is ‘comfortable’. This is the kind of life the atheist wants to live. Avoiding much of the evil in the world can prolong life and maintain a steady sort of ‘happiness’ – better labeled ‘contentment’. With this definition in hand, we may then turn our attention to what it means to live in the wicked lifestyle, or – more likely – to spend a season there in terms of our behavior and thought life. The wicked lifestyle perverts all of the above and adds extra ‘wicked-specific’ actions as well. Eating in the wicked lifestyle can be perverted to eating a huge amount or eating sweets and vomiting them up or any other imaginable perversion. Sex can be greatly perverted in the wicked lifestyle, leading to adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, etc. All forms of entertainment can be perverted in the wicked lifestyle to glorify other perversions or depict and glory in the ‘wicked-specific’ actions. ‘Wicked-specific’ actions are those that are not comfortable. These involve such things as brutal killing or the enjoyment of the same, theft, violence toward people or property, uttering streams of profanity, vandalism, etc. Dwelling even for a little while in this realm of wickedness leads to one overarching feeling: misery. The miserable heart wants to bring more misery on itself and on others, so greater and greater wicked acts are attempted. Sometimes miserable people seek to escape the misery with drugs. I see these as more of an attempted escape from the feelings that their other evil acts bring rather than an intentional evil act in and of itself. Although, unfortunately for those in this lifestyle, the drugged state can often lead a person into more and worse acts of wickedness and thus further into misery. A vicious cycle to say the least. On the other end of this spectrum lies the holy lifestyle. Most Christians today believe that the holy lifestyle is simply living the comfortable neutral lifestyle (also known as worldly or carnal). The holy lifestyle, though, consecrates the actions of the neutral lifestyle, transforming them into holy actions, and also adds some ‘holy specific’ actions. The consecration of neutral actions usually comes in the form of participating in those actions in holy, biblical, and honorable ways and in acknowledging God as the source of all goodness and provision. Eating, then, becomes eating unto the Lord: taking care of your body for His service, thanking him for providing you with life and work and money to purchase the food you eat (which grows and satisfies because He wills it), and enjoying it in Him. Sex becomes a holy union of a man with his wife, picturing the union of Christ and the church. It also becomes something to thank God for and to use for His holy service: the begetting of children to raise to be His servants, the means for avoiding the temptation to sin, etc. ‘Holy specific’ actions include prayer, worship, reading the Bible, meditating on the word and on God, singing praise, suffering and dying for the cause of Christ, evangelizing the lost, etc. Many, if not all of these actions take a person far away from ‘comfort’. The best word to describe this lifestyle is ‘joyful’. Joy is not a comfortable happiness. It is an over-the-edge affection for God and for doing His will. As in wickedness neutral actions become less tasteful in the misery of existence, in holiness neutral actions become less tasteful in the joy of existence. In misery, a person may cease to eat because he wants to hurt his body or perhaps die. In joy, a person may cease to eat because he wants to more fully experience the ecstasy of communion with Christ. A wicked person may not want to watch Everybody Loves Raymond because it is pansy and does not contain enough of the wickedness his flesh craves. A holy person may not want to watch the same program because it is pansy and does not contain enough of the holiness that his spirit craves. The truthful promise that holiness makes to a person in comfort looks like a lie. The promise is that there is far more happiness to be had in the uncomfortable, disciplined life of total reliance on God and obsession with Him. To the comfortable, this is folly. To him, the only things that have ever brought happiness are worldly things. How could throwing care of them aside increase his happiness? On the other hand, the awful lie that wickedness tells to a person in comfort looks very much like the truth. The lie is that there is far more happiness to be had in fast and free excessive use of worldly things: more television, more food, more sex, more fantasy. Since none truly satisfies as the lie indicates, the person must move farther and farther from comfort to seek satisfaction. Sex becomes perverted to find the next thrill; entertainment becomes more edgy and wicked to provide new experiences; food must be more intensely sweet or eaten in larger and larger quantities to satisfy the cravings of the flesh. This ultimately leads to a hatred of many of the things that once brought comfort and happiness and so spirals into misery. Another fascinating function of wickedness is that – while in its midst – holiness seems completely impossible and comfort seems unlikely. Similarly, while in the midst of holiness, wickedness seems impossible and comfort is not desired.