Life is unfair. Just turn on the TV, read the paper, or look at the stats on the ‘net. Murder, war, suicide, disease, slavery, it’s everywhere. It’s hard to ignore, but if anyone could be the best at ignoring it, it would be us, the North American population. Everyday we hear about it, read about it, sometimes see it firsthand, but somehow we have become immune to it. De-sensitized. And that’s the problem.
But how? How did this happen? The thing is we don’t like to see the junk of the world, because it can tend to be depressing, sometimes even rising feelings like guilt within us. So we walk away from it, hoping someone else will fix the problem. We have other things to do, right? This is what I call the couch phenomenon. That’s right, the couch phenomenon. Don’t get it? Let me explain.
You’re watching TV, let’s say the news, and suddenly you are confronted with the brutality and injustice in the world. This has got to change, you think, something has to be done. But, then the second thought comes, the thought of how comfortable and safe it is in your couch, watching TV, to actually do something, about the problems, well that just wouldn’t do, would it? So you flip the channel to one of your favorite comedy programs, choosing to ignore the problem. But, wait, what’s the content in this program? It’s seems to rather vulgar, and the language isn’t exactly right and upstanding, now is it? And, you’re a good Christian right? What do you do now? Well, knowing that this is not for you, you again flip the channel, choosing once again to ignore the problems. You continue this cycle of flipping channels, ignoring the problems and continuing to live your safe, Christian life. Christian? Well of course, you tune into your hour of Christian programming every week, that’s good enough, right?
But wait, doesn’t Jesus mandate us to be the light of the would, to love our neighbor, to make a difference in the world? Well, hold on you say, I pray about the problems, pray that God will do something, that’s doing my part, right?
Well, here’s a notion for you. What if we were use our gifts, talents and resources to deal with the problems. I am aware that we can’t do it alone, we need Gods help. But what if we were to pursue making change in the world, being the hands and feet of Christ, instead of just standing by.
Why should we bother with leaving the couch, and venturing into the dark with our only knowledge being that Jesus has promised to be with us, to light our path? For me, the answer comes in a few passages of scripture.
“If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.” (1 John 3:17 MSG)
This verse is harsh, but that’s why I like it. I myself like it so much, that I have it hung by my bed, so that I can see every morning. And the reason for this is as such, I need the reminder. I’m personally an evening person, so in the morning I’m normally a grouchy person, worrying mostly about the little trifles of my life. So when I read this verse, it’s kind of like a slap in the face that says, “willi, grow up, show love and get going, you have the means, so what are you waiting for.”
And that friends, is exactly the question, what are we waiting for. Here in North America, we certainly have the means, driving our Escalades, and making phone calls on our iPhones and Blackberrys. I’m guilty of this to; I’m typing this on an iPad. Even still, these are only financial means. As developed countries, we have untapped political power in the world, not to mention all the individual talents that we’ve been blessed with. So, evidently a “lack of means” is not an issue.
So, my question now is this, do I, do we as the church in North America, want to be known as ones that make God’s love disappear? What will we say when God asks us what we did with the resources and gifts that he blessed us with? I think we already partly answered these questions. And the results of our answers are this: the shrinking of the church, as people run away from after being wounded by hypocrisy, fearful of being mocked any longer by “God’s” people. The denomination of atheism in what used to be a nation built upon the principles of God. The inaction of the church on important issues in our world, because of the need to be “politically correct.” The list could go on, all because we are putting a plug on the flow of God’s love, ultimately because we’re stuck on the couch.
As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:24 MSG)
This particular verse is found close behind the other in the Bible, if you look at the reference, and that is in essence how I found it. But this really is the other half of the equation.
Sometimes we ask, “Where is God, I don’t feel Him, I know he’s here, but… where is he….” This verse answers that question by saying that we will experience God’s presence, if we keep His commands. And what is His command? If you remember anything about the great commandment, you’ll remember that the first, and greatest command, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”
So, if keeping God’s commands means to love Him, what does it mean to love Him? Here’s how Matthew put Jesus’ words on the subject:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-38, 40 MSG)
One could, and rightly conclude after reading this that to love God is to love His people, correct? So too live with God, and have God live in you then, is in short, too be His hands and feet in the world. And how, might I ask you, as I ask myself, how are you going to do such things for the ‘the least of these’ if you’re stuck on the couch!
So Let’s Go
To wrap things up, I’d like to sound a call, make an invitation for me, for you and the average North American christian. We don’t have to stay on the couch, in fact, if we ask, God will help us up. The hard part, however, is this: to get off the couch, you have to want too. It takes deliberately wanting to defy the norm, the safe, the comfortable and venture into the frontier. And most importantly, it takes faith. Real faith. This faith is scary. It means completely forgetting ourselves and leaving everything to God. Even the greatest heroes of the Bible struggled with this. Moses didn’t desire to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he claimed he couldn’t speak in public. Most likely, it was because he was content in Midian, tending flocks and living with His family. He liked it because it was safe. It was comfortable. He could hide from His problems there. It was life on the couch.
Jeremiah was appointed by the Lord to be a prophet. But he was leery about it. Truth be told he was probably about my age, say about 14-16 years of age at the time of his calling. So he said he was too young. Someone else can “stand against nations and kingdoms.” He didn’t want to be radical. The God that was “somewhere up there” was perfectly fine with him.
We make the same excuses. But God has bigger plans for us. Like he said to Jeremiah, “Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work. I’m making you as impregnable as a castle, immovable as a steel post, solid as a concrete block wall. You’re a one-man defense system against this culture, Against Judah’s kings and princes, against the priests and local leaders. They’ll fight you, but they won’t even scratch you. I’ll back you up every inch of the way.” (Jeremiah 1:18, 19 MSG)
One can easily replace Judah with North America, with Canada, for that is God’s call for us. To stand up against a nation and a world that is falling apart, politically, socially, spiritually, and morally.
I invite you as a invite myself to start life for God, not serving the gods of money or self- consciousness, but defying reason, and relying on God’s strength to go and do something about the world around us. There’s more to life than the couch, because God has more in store for us. So what are you waiting for, let’s go.