Has the comfort zone taken over our discipleship?
Everyone has a comfort zone. It’s a natural part of life to be comfortable with certain things and uncomfortable with others. Here’s how Wikipedia defines comfort zone: “The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”
Comfort zones keep us from making fools of ourselves and give us confidence that we can do what’s expected of us. Essentially it’s our happy place. So, there’s nothing particularly wrong with having a comfort zone. The question for each of us is, “How much do I control my comfort zone and how much does my comfort zone control me?” Let’s put the question another way for the Christian. “Am I willing to follow Jesus outside my comfort zone?”
First question first. Can we really be controlled by what we find comfortable, easy or safe? Absolutely. There are some things people simply refuse to do. Perhaps it’s that difficult conversation, or speaking in public, or visiting a hospital, nursing facility or funeral home. Maybe it’s something else for you. Well, there seems to be a point at which our comfort zone controls us. We may need to have that conversation, or say something in public, or visit someone who is sick or struggling or grieving. But if that need lands outside our comfort zone we sense the difficulty or danger and we freeze. No longer do we control ourselves, our comfort zone controls us.
As Christians we follow Jesus. We go where he goes. He loves us and leads us on a path to love others. But what if Jesus leads us outside of our comfort zone? What if Jesus calls us to love someone but we know we will feel discomfort, difficulty or danger? Take a look at the diagrams. The arrows represent agape love, not just emotion, but true commitment. Where the arrow points is the one receiving the benefit. The first diagram is the basic picture of a Christian. God loves us through Christ. We love others through Christ. People really get loved. It’s a beautiful picture. Look what happens when we let our comfort zones rule us. The love that should have stuck on someone is now reflected back to us. Instead of loving someone who needs to be loved, we choose to stay comfortable, and in the end we’re only committed to ourselves. In that moment, are we following Jesus or giving in to the tyranny of the comfort zone?
Jesus has led us right through our comfort zones into the lives of those who need someone to love them. Jesus ate with the outcasts, protected the prostitutes and touched the untouchables. He took the leaders to task, loved his enemies, and was graceful to the Gentiles. His mission took him away from home and family, employment and security, and landed him the middle of a firestorm where he would make peace with his blood.
There’s nothing comfortable about that, but aren’t you glad he did it?