Christ’s message to us is uncomfortable but essential
A good friend of mine made the following statement: "Christ comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable."
That resonates with me in two ways. Sometimes I am the one who is afflicted, and sometimes I am the one who is comfortable. It might seem striking that Jesus afflicts the comfortable, but as I read the Bible, he does this a lot.
Sure, it's easy to read when the message is lovely and affirming, but it's not so easy when it challenges me. I don't think avoiding difficult passages is the way forward, because we miss something. Neither should we grit it out because we are just supposed to read it. Comforted? Afflicted?
Maybe there's another option. How about an accountability group to make sure I read the Bible? Again, Christ challenges me in my comfort. Is the only way I make sure I read the Bible by being in such a group?
Imagine if a bride-to-be wrote love letters to her fiance. Now imagine she hears that he had to go to an accountability group to ensure he read those letters! I don't think that the bride-to-be would be too happy about that! Now imagine, he's bragging to his accountability buddies that he's the man for reading so many of her love letters. How much more can this guy cheapen his beloved?
Again, why do we read the Bible? Is it about me or is it about Christ? Comforted? Afflicted?
So why do we read the Bible? Is it about us or is it really about Christ? For me it's not enough to say, "Well, at least I'm in a group that makes sure I read the Bible." It's not enough to say, "Well, I read my Scripture reading for the day."
Christ questions our motivations. I wish I could be like the psalmist who said, "I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you've done it. I relish everything you've told me of life, I won't forget a word of it." (Psalm 119:9-16 from Bible version called "The Message.")
I sense a great passion in the psalmist as he writes of someone he is very fond of. Christ challenges, "Do you really want to read about me, even to the extent that you find it uncomfortable?" To say the Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE) misses the point.
We have the privilege of reading about him because in reading his letters we get to know him more. And I suspect that's what he wants.
As we put our trust and faith in the person of Christ, we can find ourselves wanting to accept and respond to everything that he says: the comforting aspects and the afflicting. Do we only want just enough Jesus to make us comfortable? That would cheapen who he is. Let's read it all.
Clive Cowell is executive director of the Bible Institute of Hawaii.