Our Stories Part Two: Jim Rohner
As Christians, I don’t think that we were called to a John Mayer kind of love.
Sorry – let me back up…
For those of you unfamiliar, John Mayer is a singer/songwriter who every college Caucasian male with a guitar aspired to be. With his boy next door good looks, sultry pipes, and chops with the wood and wire, John Mayer seemingly wooed an entire generation of young females whilst singing about love. One song specifically, “Comfortable” (a personal favorite), affectionately paints the emotional mise-en-scene of a particular love using cathartically intimate language like “our love was, comfortable and / so broken in” and “I loved you / grey sweat pants, no makeup, so perfect.” He crafts a warm and welcoming picture of what interpersonal love can look like, but when it comes to applying it to the rest of the world, it doesn’t serve us much good.
I don’t mean to take romance down a peg; Lord knows that I’m a sucker for a song or movie that’ll make you cry (I’m talking those real ugly tears) and I admit that Mayer’s song cannot and should not be used to make a 1:1 correlation to the message of Christ. But, we are living where the message of Christ’s love has been repurposed, reinterpreted, and reappropriated to fit into memes, mantras, and tweets.
The love of Christ was not brought to earth to support or confirm what we wanted; it was meant to be a revolutionary force that would overthrow a social and political status quo that saw the powerful oppress and the powerless en route to a dramatically restructured paradigm in which the first would become the last and the last would become the first.
The love of Christ is not comfortable.
Now, I don’t mean to say that there is not peace, comfort, joy, and hope to be found in Christ’s love – that is just patently false. Seriously, Google Bible passages about any of the above superlatives and you’ll find double digit results. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
See? All those things and more can be found by believing in Christ and trying to follow his example of selfless giving and loving. But while all those things – peace, comfort, joy, hope – are readily found in following Christ, they are not the end goal; they are not what we should be striving for when we look to Christ as an example of how we should live our lives. Christ was sent here as an example of the love God has for us, but nowhere in the Bible were we told that Christ came to make us happy, that he wanted to make sure we were comfortable, or that we should maybe just take a break for a little bit if it seemed like this whole Christianity thing was interfering with our plans.
Don’t believe me? Let’s ask the man himself:
“The second [commandment] is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30 – 31
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” – Matthew 16:24 – 26
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” – Matthew 10:34
Now, admittedly, none of these passages (with maybe the exception of the last one) explicitly preclude peace or happiness from occurring, but they do utilize some language that makes it pretty clear that what Jesus wants is neither easy nor comfortable. Treat someone the same way I demand to be treated? Deny my previous life to follow Christ? And what’s all this about a sword? Sure, none of us believe that Christ meant a literal sword, but he did mean to cause some damage – specifically, he wanted to tear down the safety net of self-love and negligence of others that we’ve built up around ourselves.
Here at Forefront, I’ve been exposed to other opinions, other preferences of worship, other live experiences, and other views of the world that I never knew existed before. It exposed me to the 100 Days of Action, to the dinners at Boystown, to food pantries, to volunteer opportunities, and to the true understanding that the commandment of “love your neighbor as yourself” carries the implication of “NO EXCEPTIONS”: that means the poor, the marginalized, the hated, the ones who’ve wrong us, the ones we’ve wronged, and even the ones who just don’t agree with us politically. Have I done something to upset you? You are commanded to love me, but if the shoe is on the other foot, I am commanded to love you just the same.
That is not normal, but it is wonderful.
That is not comfortable, but it is life-changing.