I’ve heard sermons, lessons and seminars that advise Christians to do something for God and “get out of your comfort zone.” It gets really awkward when Ray Comfort does it. Carrying your Bible in public, praying over lunch in the school cafeteria and volunteering for short term foreign mission fields are all examples of what can only be done once we leave our comfort zone. While all of those and many other examples are great things that Christians should be doing, I’ve never like the expression. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone to get out of their personal comfort zone. My blog archives go back to 2008, check me on that if you’d like.
But on Sunday morning we were studying Gideon. You may remember the story of Gideon defeating the army of Midian with a small group of 300 from Judges chapter 7. Before that event Gideon was called by God and did a couple of other things in preparation. Judges 6 begins with this verse: The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. Israel had not been completely obedient and driven all people out of the land God gave them. They would intermarry with those cultures and adopt their religious practices and from time to time God would allow those nations to oppress Israel. God first sent a prophet to remind them what the problem was. One of the first things Gideon had to do was tear down the altars of Baal so that he could offer sacrifice on a altar built for God. He tore down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah and sacrificed on new altars of stone during the night because he was afraid to do so during the day. Here is the response the next morning, recorded in Judges 6:28-32:
When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
The people of Israel were comfortable sharing the land with some of the previous inhabitants. They grew comfortable over time with the religious practices of those people, and here they are willing to kill Gideon for tearing down the altar of Baal. Whatever my feelings of “comfort zone” talk aside, getting too comfortable around sinfulness was the problem here. When Lot moved his family into Sodom, he sat each day in the gate with the elders of the city. He first pitched his tent near Sodom, but in time settled there, moved his family into a house and became one of the city leaders. Where it not for his uncle Abraham, Lot’s family would have been destroyed in God’s judgement.
When Israel was camped at Mount Sinai, Moses spent 40 days with God receiving the Law and other instructions. The people asked Aaron to make them gods, which he did. They had recently promised God that all he said they would do when he spoke aloud the Ten Commandments. Aaron fashioned a golden calf which they bowed down to, even declaring it to be the god that brought them out of Egypt. Israel had been in Egypt for generations and were accustomed to their religious practices. In other words, the religion of Egypt is what they were comfortable with. The thunder, lightening and smoke on Mount Sinai made them uncomfortable and Aaron provided them with an image there used to.
Comfortable is a problem. Sitting down in my recliner after a hard day of work is great; but what if I stay in my recliner all day and never go to work? If every dish in the kitchen is dirty, every basket is full of soiled laundry, if the grass is knee high in the front yard and I’m still sitting in my recliner… comfortable can be a problem. Those examples are a little extreme to make a point. It’s more likely that getting in my car and driving to church is more comfortable than inviting my neighbor to go with. If the guy pan-handling makes you a little uncomfortable then the natural thing to do is walk by very quickly in order to get to a more comfortable place. The comfort zone people say that if inviting your neighbor to church or bowing your head to pray in a public place is comfortable you need to find something else that is not comfortable in order to do something for God. I’m still not sure I agree with that mentality; but if we are comfortable doing nothing or comfortable with sin in our lives, then something needs to change.