I love convenience. From pulling up to the pump and conveniently swiping my card to the ten item or less aisle in the grocery store – I LOVE convenience.
In fact, on those rare occasions when the ‘pay at the pump’ service isn’t provided, I have actually climbed back into my vehicle and driven to another location. I wonder if my love for convenience produces some unintended consequences? More pointedly, I wonder if my desire for convenience results in impatience and intolerance?
I venture a guess that I am not alone; that many of us love convenience. From the line at the local grocer, the drive through at the pharmacy, the wait at the restaurant, to the pileup on the parkway, we hate to be inconvenienced and behave irrationally when we are.
Oh, we may give lip service to Him, but our God is, or at least has become – convenience! We want it our way, right away! From food and pharmaceuticals to fitness; if we are going to get involved, then it better be convenient.
Our God is convenience. We regularly worship at its altar of self-absorption as we sacrifice human dignity to the subjection of its will.
Our desire for convenience rears its head when we are asked to make a commitment or stand on conviction. Indeed, from our gasoline and groceries to our fitness and pharmaceuticals, it seems that we are a people willing to sacrifice commitment and conviction on the altar of comfort and convenience. Worshiping convenience produces a least two devastating – though unintended and often ignored – consequences: impatience and intolerance.
Easily sensed, our love for convenience has cultivated – clearly – a culture of impatience and intolerance.
Our desire for convenience poses a particular problem for those captivated by and committed to the Gospel of God in Christ. The Gospel of God in Christ is a Gospel of INCONVENIENCE – the mirror opposite of the rhythm of life we live and the desire we feed.
The Scriptures – from start to finish – indicate three clear ways that the Gospel of God in Christ is one of Inconvenience.
- First, inconvenience is modeled by God Himself.
- Secondly, God brings harsh judgment on His people (particularly leadership) who seek convenience at the expense of those around them.
- Thirdly, God reveals an eternal commitment to be inconvenienced; a commitment birthed from His desire to be with us.
INCONVENIENCE IS MODELED BY GOD
I would take this statement a step further by saying that God does more than model inconvenience: it’s as if He desires it!! Ezekiel 34 paints a picture of a God who goes to tremendous inconvenience to reach the vulnerable and lost of the world,
Ezekiel 34:11 – 16, “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. 12 I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. 13 I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. 14 Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!
Let’s break it down into bite size chunks. Here are 5 repeated phrases that reveal the heart of a God willing to be inconvenienced for His people.
- He searches and finds his scattered flock.
- He rescues us from the dark and cloudy day.
- He brings us back from our wilderness wanderings to the home He has prepared.
- He feeds us in plush pastures.
- He brings us to a place of rest.
Each one of these phrases indicates a rock-hewed commitment to our good; revealing unflinching inconvenience on our behalf.
GOD JUDGES HIS PEOPLE (PARTICULARLY LEADERS) WHO ARE UNWILLING TO BE INCONVENIENCED
Ezekiel 34:20 – 24, “20 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. 21 For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. 22 So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. 23 And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the Lord, have spoken!
Why such harsh judgment on those who are not willing to be inconvenienced? Because God desires that his people will be at rest and in communion with Him. Sheep need to be shepherded because we are both vulnerable, and we are an inconvenience. We need (long deeply for) a loving, faithful father who will love us back into His family even as we expend all of our energy running away from His fold.
The voice of God, which proclaims, “Return to Me” is not the voice of a hard-hearted mother or a heavy-handed father waiting with the words I told you so as you return in hopes of rest and renewal. Rather, the voice of God, which proclaims Return to Me, is the voice of a brokenhearted parent welcoming in and wooing back a loved one gone astray.
The prophet illustrates God’s desire to welcome in and woo back. Utilizing two potent phrases, Ezekiel accentuates God’s willingness to be inconvenienced on our behalf!
In Ezekiel 34:15, we read, “I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace.
- Tend my sheep (shepherd) means variously, ‘to feed, to pasture, to tend,” and ‘to delight in,’ and ‘to have intimate union with.’
- Lie down in peace, means variously, ‘to lie down on the breast, to recline at meals, to settle, be at peace.”
Ultimately, God’s goal is – now and forever has been – that we be with Him.
HE IS A “GOD WITH US” GOD
Ezekiel’s language is the language of communion: the language of with-ness. It’s the language of a God who is willingly inconvenienced on our behalf and quick to judge those who are not. It’s a language birthed in His desire for us to be with Him in the fullness of Him!
The fullest experience of this inconvenience occurs in Christ. The good shepherd who undergoes the greatest of inconvenience to sacrifice for the vulnerable.
In Matthew 1:23 we read, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.”
This God With Us God becomes ever present and always real the moment He enters our world. His presence with us is designed to flood us with God. His presence captures us; as such we become caught up in his immeasurable greatness as ones ravished by His unending joy. The outcome of one who has been ravished by the unending joy of a God willing to be inconvenienced is that we become a people of an Inconvenient faith. In other words, we share the grace of inconvenience extended to us by the Gospel of the God in Christ!
At one of his last teaching moments, before the final unfolding of the plot to murder him, Jesus informs us regarding the nature of inconvenience and how faith in God cultivates a people of an Inconvenient faith when he says,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.” Matthew 25:33 – 41
The words of Jesus suggest that an indication of the fullness of our faith in the God With Us Gospel is our willingness to be inconvenienced for those whom God has willingly inconvenienced Himself!
Our willingness to be inconvenienced is not the reason for, but an indication of our faith! In other words, the target is not others, but God. When God becomes our end, when God becomes our fullness, and we delight ourselves in His presence, then others are a joy and being inconvenienced becomes an outcome of a life captivated by the fullness of our God With Us God.
Bottom Line: our willingness to be inconvenienced for the vulnerable serves as an indication of the fullness of our faith and stands in stark contrast to a culture that worships at the altar of comfort and convenience.
Disrupting to Renew!