Recently I read an article about a Christian immigrant having been given a most unfriendly 'welcome' at her now Australian local church. She persisted in attending and eventually became friends with some of the congregation but not all would accept her because of her country of origin. I found that appalling, especially in this day and age. Obviously some in that congregation had never mixed with people with whom they did not feel comfortable and there was no way they were going to learn to change their views now.
I am married to a Chinese man ( who was not readily accepted in my Christian family 50 years ago), and have a Malay daughter in law and an Indian son in law, and have also had the opportunity to travel to many countries. With this in mind, I am very comfortable around people from different ethnic backgrounds, but recently I met people who definitely took me out of my comfort zone. This was quite a shock and I hasten to add, a good kind of shock.
There was nothing wrong with these people - they were just different to those with whom I would normally mix, and I was very grateful for Jesus' teaching that he loves everyone and so should I. They weren't even hard to love as they were kind and considerate so why did I feel uncomfortable or better still, why should I feel uncomfortable?
It is so easy to live in our own little world of ideas and values and want to stay there. Jesus didn't. He left heaven's glory to become one of us and in no uncertain terms, shocked the comfortable out of their complacency, so much so that he had to be got rid of - but we know that that didn't work. Just as Jesus reached out to everyone, so he expects us to do the same, whether we are comfortable or not.
I don't attend church in my local area for various reasons - anyone reading this is quite welcome to start a conversation with me about that - but sometimes I feel uncomfortable when I attend a church which I visit. My recent experiences have made me think about this, and I am a bit surprised with my thoughts. I am very comfortable attending a different church, but some in the congregation are not comfortable with having to speak with new people. I have mentioned this in a previous blog, but I feel that Christians who do not mix sufficiently with people outside of their church family, just don't know how to relate to others. Whether we like it or not, we should be prepared for God to take us out of our comfort zone to bring him glory.
I am pleased I have had a few recent surprises - a wake up call can be timely - and my prayer is that people will experience Jesus' love through me, no matter who they are.
Have you had your comfort zone tested lately?