We see them regularly, and every time they make us uncomfortable.
They stand there on the street corner or in the intersection with a sign. Sometimes the sign says "Homeless," other times it says, "Lost my job."
They make me uncomfortable. They make everyone in the car uncomfortable. I don't want to see them. I wish I didn't see them. They remind me of a reality I would like not to think about.
Sometimes the conversation in the car is explicit. Someone says -"Let's do something," or "Does anyone have any cash?" And sometimes we stop.
Other times we can't stop. The traffic makes it impossible or at least dangerous, or no one in the car has any money.
Other times no one says anything. But we all sense it. We are uncomfortable.
I think we are supposed to be. Uncomfortable.
If we are not uncomfortable, then we are missing the point. We are supposed to struggle, when other people are struggling. You don't have to be a follower of Jesus to feel compassion, but if you are a follower of Jesus, and you don't hurt when you see others hurting, then you've missed the point - in a big way.
Now, I know we should have an important conversation about the best way to help folks. And that conversation is necessary. But that conversation depends upon all of us being uncomfortable regarding the situation faced by other human beings.
All that to say - I get why so many American Christians are so attracted to the message proclaimed by Victoria and Joel Osteen. I really do. The Prosperity Gospel is attractive.
All the same, their message is wrong. It's more than wrong. It's dangerous.
It's dangerous because it is all about us, and our happiness; that we are supposed to be comfortable, and happy, and that is God's chief concern.
And that's really dangerous.
Because there are times when we are supposed to be uncomfortable, really uncomfortable - and sad, and angry, and righteously indignant.
Because it's not all about us. Certainly not about my happiness, and not yours either. If it's all about my happiness, then I've got a real problem with that man with the sign. He's is getting in the way of my happiness. And any conversation about how to help him, and the systemic reasons why he is there, will be replaced by a simple remark blaming him for his situation - without ever getting to know his name and his story. Because to find out his story, to connect with him person to person - well, that will just make me uncomfortable, and it may even mess with my nice, comfortable bubble of believing that everyone gets exactly what they deserve.
And maybe, just maybe, I will begin to understand a bit better what "take up your cross" and "love your neighbor" really means. And I just might find myself feeling a lot of feelings that are not all that, you know... comfortable.