"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message)
This is a longer scripture than usual, but it's a greaty passage. Like many passages, it seems to communicate a different message every time it's read/studied. I've recently been reading through "With God in the Crucible: Preaching Costly Discipleship" by Peter Storey. The book is a collection of Storey's sermons during the time when South African churches began speaking out against apartheid. Many of the sermons really bothered me- they described what was happening in the community, in the country, and in the church. Sometimes, Storey's calls to action bothered me- mostly that Storey called Christians to demand that the government dismantle the apartheid system...without reverting to violence. Storey's calls were not all that unlike the calls of Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S. during the Civil Rights movement.
The message of most of the sermons was simple and repetitive- apartheid is wrong, everyone knows it but won't change it, so the church must bring about change in a peaceful manner so that others don't try to change things violently. Storey even criticized the churches of America for being comfortable in their faith/religion. Our first reaction to this criticism is to become defensive- because we tithe, we volunteer, we even pray for our church! But the truth is that we have become comfortable. We have learned to like our little Sunday school discussions, we like a sermon that's uplifting and feel-good, we like our choirs to sound nice, we like our bathrooms clean...the list goes on.
There's nothing wrong with these things specifically. However, the problem develops when we get so comfortable with our own surroundings that we no longer realize how much God has blessed us by having a relationship with God through Christ. The 12th chapter of Paul's letter to the church in Rome urges the congregation to be different. He tells them to be radical- be different than the rest of the people...strive NOT to fit in!!! But we don't like that...because we know the saying- the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. Storey's sermons in the forementioned book stretch over a decade. We usually know when things need to change, but we don't always want to pay the cost it takes to change it. That has to change. We, the church, need to be the first to demand change when things need changing...we need to be different, for the sake of the world.
Are you comfortable in your faith? Do you find yourself concerned about little things in your church? Maybe the problem isn't the church- maybe it's your perspective... start looking for the things that are wrong in your community, in your city, in your country, in the world. Actively pursue change for the better. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world..."