Saturday, August 2, 2014

Jesus Hates Happy People

It was a striking statement, one that caught my attention.  I was working my way through a very thorough but very conservative/ evangelical book about cell church development as part of my doctoral research, and there it was.

The author was recounting a story told by a friend, who was trying to plant a cell church in Europe.  It was a terrific struggle, and though they were using all of the tools they'd learned in planting congregations in both the US and the developing world, it just wasn't working.

The problem, as they identified it, was that the country was "hard soil" for planting the seed of God's word.  As they unpacked that, they articulated their takeaway as to why: because people were basically happy.

They had friends.  They had family.  They didn't fear for themselves financially.  They needed no new relationships to bring fulfillment to their lives, and had no sense of being "lost" or hopeless.

"Hard soil," the book affirmed with a knowing nod, and continued on without further comment.  Though I'm familiar with this particular reality, it seems a thing that shouldn't be glossed over.

Happiness is the enemy of the Gospel?

If the spread of your faith is contingent on people being anxious, lost, or hopeless?  That, it seems, is a critical problem.

And yes, there's a truth to it.  If you are poor and oppressed, the message of Jesus is a message of liberation.  If you experience life as an affliction, that message is one of healing.  If you walk through life bloodied by the edges of your brokenness, you're going to yearn to be made whole.

The Way of Christ does this.

It is also true that if your happiness is derived from your participation in a system that harms and oppresses and breaks others, Jesus has beef with you.  As did the prophets, frankly.  Being fat and happy in Babylon is dangerous existential ground.  I feel this personally, because it is meant for me personally.

But that's not the end of it, nor can it be.

I do not think, to be honest, that the Way should only seem compelling to people and in cultures that are struggling or oppressive.  If there was no longer poverty or anxiety, and the clawing anxiety of consumerism was gone, and everyone was simply content?  A message of sustaining purpose and gracious, welcoming fellowship would be just as relevant.

If it is not, then we're doing something wrong.

Because the message of the Reign of God is not just about the "not yet."  It is just as relevant in those moments of "now."