By Dan Hong
When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I like discomfort”? No one likes to be uncomfortable. We want our kids to study hard so that they get into a good school, get a decent job, and make a decent-living. We pursue high-paying jobs so that we can make a lot of money for the comforts of this world. We plan our lives accordingly so that we can start our retirement plan early and be comfortable until our time on Earth is up. Ultimately, we live our lives so that we can be comfortable.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul says the phrase ‘I became’ four times.
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
One scholar said that the idea of the phrase “I have become or I became,” came from the willingness to step inside someone else’s skin to feel what they feel. Paul said he must embody discomfort in order to save them to Christ. He became discomfort for the sake of the gospel.
There are a lot of joys in following Jesus, but there is a cost. Paul knew that. Think of Jonah’s call to Nineveh, Hosea buying back Gomer, or Onesimus reconciling with Philemon. The cost of following Jesus is dying to yourself. To die to yourself is to die to your idolatries. To die to your idolatries is to die to discomfort. There is nothing comfortable about dying to yourself. I’m sure Jesus would agree. Just ask Him when He was praying at the Garden of Gethsamane, where He was so greatly distressed that He was sweating blood (Luke 22:44). He incarnated by taking on flesh, walking, and dwelling among us in the discomfort of that. If Jesus would’ve hung on to comfort, we would be in hell for eternity. Jesus knew everything about discomfort.
Living the Christian life will be uncomfortable. Pursuing multiethnic engagement will be uncomfortable. We cannot hold onto comfort and pursue multiethnic engagement at the same time. To take a huge step towards multiethnic engagement is to step into discomfort. That means for us to step into their context, instead of us waiting or manipulating them to step into ours. The more we reflect upon the comforts of the gospel, the more we see how it outweighs the discomforts of our flesh, then we will find ourselves responding like Paul, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”