I love Southwest Airlines. Must be the heart logo. And their employees seem to love their jobs. Which is a pleasantry in a world where many airlines seem to dip their employees in lemon juice. But Southwest imposes one inconvenience. Passengers must check in 24 hours beforehand to get their boarding assignments—really a race to see who can click their mice the fastest, lest one end up with the dreaded middle seat. This 24-hour check-in process works great if you face a computer all day. I don’t.
Enter: early bird check-in. For $15 Southwest Airlines will check me in automatically, which precludes the setting of an alarm 24 hours before my flight that I will never hear anyway. Rather than pay an extra $25 per bag to Bergen Airlines, (#watchmovieTrolls) I’d rather pay an extra $15 to Southwest and choose my seat. I would summarize all the things I love about Southwest Airlines thusly: convenience.
We Americans have perfected the art of convenience. This is one reason why businesses have customer service representatives—to deal with whiners offended by inconvenience. It’s like we loathe anything that feels like work. Don’t want to get out of your car for dinner? Head for the drive-thru. Don’t want to watch TV commercials? Just hit fast forward.
Our consumeristic entitlement culture tells us this is normal. And we bring that same attitude inside our churches. Some churches will play along to retain members. Sad. Because Americans will leave churches that don’t meet their “needs.” What? No fitness center with Olympic sized pool? No valet parking? We’ve turned personal preference into a god, and we idolize it like the golden calf. And when we don’t get our way, we complain.
But the rest of the world doesn’t operate this way.
The author in Hebrews 5:11-6:2 pleads with long-time Christians to apply what they already know, lest they fall away. No condemnation here. New believers should drink spiritual milk from bottles. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning a child off the bottle by the age of 18 months. Yet, we’ve all seen the 2 and 3 year olds still drinking from a bottle. This week I had a 7 year old patient still drinking chocolate milk from a bottle. Christians should strive for weaning, not sucking on the bottle forever.
Consider Jesus’s teaching style. Jesus didn’t hand out bibs and serve jars of mashed peas and applesauce. Jesus spoke in parables. He didn’t spoon feed anyone with his sermons. His deep mysterious teaching left people with questions about what he meant. I have to study commentaries to understand Jesus’s messages. Jesus put meat in front of people, not Gerber. Anyone looking for satisfaction from his feeding had to work for it. Which makes me wonder: Did he do this to weed people out? So that only those hungry enough to work for it would remain? Do I want to be one Jesus knew would not want to work for it?
The Christian life can appear inconvenient. But God never promised us convenience. Not to say convenience equals sin. Some of God’s gifts come with conveniences. Like a home—a home provides a place to enjoy Nutella pancakes. I don’t travel to work via chuck wagon. I drive a car. I don’t beat strangled dirty clothes on a washboard like a Mumbai dhobi. I use a washing machine. I’m grateful for these things that make my life easier.
Gifts are designed for use. If I bought my husband a black Lamborghini Roadster for Christmas—with 2 tone red and black leather seats, with stylish red stitching—and he never cleaned it, never put it in the garage, never changed the oil, I’d say, “Wow—that’s how you’re going to treat my gift?” On the flip side, if he massaged those 18- inch wheels with baby oil, saran wrapped the seats, encircled the car with candles, kissed the hood every morning, and never let me touch his car, I’d say, “It’s just a car. You’ve made the car—the gift, more important than me—the gift giver.” You get the point.
So the issue is not convenience, but rather that we worship convenience—this notion that we deserve easy. But following Jesus is a 24/7 lifestyle. Not a 90-minute-Sunday-only thing. Discipleship entails giving up our love of convenience.
But some of us would rather just go to work, make dinner, do laundry, socialize on Saturday, church on Sunday, and repeat the cycle next week, next year, and so on for 20 years, all the while failing to dig deep into the Bible and neglecting to do life with other Christians. Why? Because we don’t have the time, and it just isn’t convenient.
Some of us are content with that life. But nothing will satisfy us the way God will. Not a big house, nor a husband with big biceps—not even a Snickers Bar. Perhaps you recall the old slogan: “Snickers really satisfies.” Oh yeah? Well how come I just ate ten of them?
So where are we? Dull of hearing? Still drinking from a bottle? Hung up on our own conveniences? Christ did not die on the cross for me to drink from a baby bottle. If I’m going to call myself a Christian, then I must grow up. The Bible says I’m entitled to death on a cross. So maybe it’s time I died to some conveniences so that I may live.