Our Carnal Culture of Comfort
Our Carnal Culture of Comfort
By Andy Diestelkamp
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians that he “could not speak to [them] as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ,” (I Cor. 3:1) he was specifically referring to their calling themselves after men. However, it is clear from the rest of Paul’s letter that the carnal attitude so infecting that church began with the lusts of individuals (i.e. I Cor. 5:6). A church inevitably reflects the values of its members, especially its leadership.
The Corinthian culture was materialistic and immoral. Most of the Christians who comprised that church were likely products of that culture (cf. I Cor. 6:11). Therefore, their fleshly inclinations, if unchecked by the spirit, would tend to find their way into not only their personal lives, but into the work and worship of that church.
That problem was not unique to Corinth but was true of other first century churches. It is just as possible for modern churches to think they are alive when, in fact, they are dead (Rev. 3:1), or rich when, really, they are poor (Rev. 3:17). In our culture of material affluence, the inclination of the people, even in allegedly spiritual contexts, is to expect and emphasize comfort in all realms: physical, aesthetic, organizational, and even doctrinal.
This is exemplified in many church buildings. It is one thing to logically deduce from Scripture the need for a place to assemble and therein find authority for using church funds to build structures to accommodate such assemblies. It is another to make such buildings reflect or appeal to our carnal culture of comfort. No, I am not suggesting that comfort is inherently wrong, but the emphasis upon such liberty may indicate motives that are more carnal than spiritual.
With affluence often comes a desire for a more polished image and a professional approach to teaching and the assembled worship. If we think about it, this comfort driven also. As a rule, listeners prefer to hear speakers who have good voice quality, dynamism, excellent vocabulary, vibrant illustrations, humorous anecdotes, and powerful visual aids. There is nothing wrong with any of these per se, but none of them is essential to effectively communicate the gospel. Those concerned with appearances want “their preacher” to talk smoothly, dress smartly, and keep it short. We are often more concerned with image and comfort than we are with content.
Once we have done this, it is but a short step into making it a priority to make people feel comfortable spiritually. Again, comfort is not inherently bad, and the Scriptures certainly provide spiritual comfort, but when instruction and correction are needed, it is imperative that we preach the word and not tickle ears (2 Tim. 4:1-5). Let us not forget that the word of God is described as a sword (Heb. 4:12), and people who were converted were pricked in their hearts (Ac. 2:37)/ Beware buying into the idea that conversions to Christ and spiritual growth come via comfort.
Leaving the glory of heaven was not comfortable for Jesus. His life in the flesh was not comfortable. Certainly, the cross was not comfortable. Therefore, professing disciples of Jesus Christ must not think themselves above their teacher (Matt. 10:24) and put a premium upon comfort. Indeed, we have become soft in our culture of comfort and should give serious heed to Jesus’ observation about how hard it is for those who are rich (that’s us, brethren) to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Lk. 18:24).