Several of you have told me, over the past 24 hours, that one of your priorities in finding a church was whether or not you felt comfortable in it.
But because we’re all adults, capable of calm conversation, I’m about to say something quite uncomfortable:
Church isn’t supposed to be comfortable. It’s not like a pair of well-worn sweatpants or Cracker Barrel mac-n-cheese or a baby curled up on your shoulder.
If anything, church is uncomfortable.
When you come to church, you come as a sinner–one who has lied to your husband about how much you spent at the mall, rolled your eyes at your parents behind their backs, and looked twice when your coworker walked past in a too-short skirt. You’ve done what God has explicitly told you not to do, and you did it because you don’t really believe that God will punish you for it.
That’s why church is uncomfortable . . . because you are a sinner in the presence of a jealous God, one who demands payment for all your sin.
But even as you stand uncomfortably, shifting from foot to foot, know also that He is merciful.
And He is good.
It is in church that that same God forgives you because of Christ. It doesn’t mean that your sins don’t matter or don’t grieve Him. It means that He forgives them, forgets them, continues to love you despite them, and bids you to go back out into the world again to tell your husband the truth, to respect your parents, and to look away when your coworker saunters past.
C.S. Lewis spoke of this in the Chronicles of Narnia.
There are a lot of comfortable things about church: the way it smells at Christmas, knowing the sound of your pastor’s voice even when your head is bowed at the Lord’s Supper, your church family, the way the pew creaks. But being drawn into the presence of Christ, the one who makes all things new, should never be routine, like our favorite recliner or the taste of warm cookies, fresh out of the oven.
He is too good, too merciful, too ready to give us more than we deserve for that to be the case.