Last part of a three part blog about the temptations we face that we may not even be aware of.
The last post talked about my temptation for recognition and greatness. In the end this is really a temptation of self-interest. Greatness is what is important to me. As Liz and I have travelled we have talked to many different people at many different points of their faith journey and there was another common temptation that people kept talking about. Another temptation of self-interest that I think many people are not even aware of, but that keeps us from fully following God as he intended us to. That temptation is comfort.
Many people have said that they could never do what we do. The travel, the stepping out of a familiar place and culture, the lack of creature comforts are all reasons we have been given for people not being able to do what we are doing. This is the temptation of comfort, the temptation to make sure we are comfortable and then only within that comfort zone do we do ministry for God. Now I want to clarify that not everyone is meant to do work in a different place or culture (aka overseas missions). I genuinely think that most people are meant to do ministry in their own communities with their neighbours and friends. However, that is not the reason most people gave us and if I had to guess I would say that many people even within their own communities only do ministry within their comfort zone.
This temptation of comfort is the first temptation of Jesus. The temptation to turn stone into bread was the temptation for Jesus to satisfy his own needs right then and there no matter what they may have meant for his future ministry. This is a dangerous temptation because when we give in to the desires for our own comfort we sink deeper into a pattern of us first and others second. This is dangerous territory because I have seen the difference even just a little makes in the world. The saying, “Live simply so others may simply live” is not far from the truth in some parts of the world, including the US. What are we willing to endure so that others know their lives matter...or even so that they have lives? What are we willing to do without so that others may have enough...or better yet as much as we have? The radical challenge of Jesus is to put others first. This means that we are not only called to give so that others will have enough it really means we are called to give so that others have more than us. That one is hard, that one is a challenge for everyone I know including myself. As Mother Teresa aged she also developed really badly deformed feet. This was not because she was getting older though, it was because every time the Sisters of Charity received a shipment of shoes she would find the worst pair and those were hers. She was not even satisfied to wait until everyone else had taken theirs (we often do that hoping that someone will notice and leave us a better piece of the pie since we waited) she went through them all before anyone else and grabbed the worst pair. This is giving up comfort for others so they will not only have enough, but more than we ourselves have.
As Christians our ultimate example of love is supposed to be Christ on the cross. I think he got there because he unconditionally loved the “wrong people.” Some of us look at him, shake our heads in awe of his greatness, determine we could never do that and walk back into the air conditioning. Some of us look at him and want to join him on the cross, where the greatness is, when we are supposed to be taking care of his mother who is standing and weeping as she looks at her son. My challenge would be to pray, find your great temptation, and take real steps to live more for others than for yourself whatever that may mean in your life as you are living it now.