We definitely live in a time when people enjoy many creature comforts. I suppose it’s because I’m quickly aging, but I can remember a time when new cars were not automatically equipped with air conditioning. It was a luxury add-on. In fact, my first car didn’t come with air conditioning unless you count the 4-40 system I had: 4 windows and 40 miles an hour kept the car modestly warm on relatively hot summer days. As I reflect on life these days, I can’t help but think that everything around us screams comfort. If you’re cold, raise the thermostat in your home. If you’re hungry, pop a burrito in the microwave and 90 seconds later you’re ready to eat. If you lack money, apply for instant credit—buy now, pay later. We can grow impatient when our computers don’t process data at lightning-fast speeds. That extra two seconds makes us want to upgrade to the latest software or newest model. Our surrounding culture regularly serves the dish of comfort and we consume it by the heaping spoonful. We may not realize it, but with comfort as a priority it can endanger our sanctification. How so?
Read the gospels or Paul’s letters, for example, and take note at the number of times these texts mention the cross. Take up your cross and follow me, says Jesus (Luke 9:23). Paul wanted only to know of Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Cross and comfort are two antithetical terms. The cross is about suffering and sacrifice, whereas comfort is about having every need met. If we’re always seeking the path of least resistance and greatest comfort, then where is there room for the way of the cross? I can illustrate this point through my own experience with short term missions. I once served with an evangelism team in a refugee camp that was an old converted military base. Needless to say, this was not a place of comfort. When the cafeteria server shoved her hand into a vat of hard boiled eggs, and then grabbed two hot dogs, added a side of sauerkraut, and dumped them on my tray with her bare hands, I wasn’t all that thrilled with my breakfast. Yes, breakfast. But before I arrived at the refugee camp I told myself that I would eat anything, sleep anywhere, go without a shower for the whole two weeks because I wasn’t there on vacation but was there to serve and evangelize. If we’re constantly conditioned for comfort, then when it’s time to embrace the way of the cross, we’ll be ill-prepared for sacrifice and suffering.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should disconnect your air conditioner, drive with your car windows down in the heat of summer, or purposefully inconvenience yourself just so you can say you’re suffering. Rather, simply beware that the blessings that God provides and the many creature comforts we enjoy can become an idol. Martin Luther warned people about the theology of glory versus the theology of the cross. In our day, we should be worried that we don’t become theologians of comfort, always looking for the path of least resistance and eschewing the way of the cross.