Comfortable Christianity

by Paul Peter Waldenström

Translated here from the Swedish, this was originally published in Pietisten in May 1893, and draws from I Corinthians chapter 12. –MS)

Comfortable Christianity, it is indeed, when a believer lives for himself. He does not want to be a part of the congregation, as one of its members. He sticks to himself. He calls it “being free,” and free he wants to be. If the congregation builds a meeting house and furnishes it nicely and secures for itself a good and talented preacher, then he will go there and listen and feel good. But being involved and bearing the burdens, taking part in the responsibilities and tasks of being a member in the body of the congregation, which makes all this possible – that he has no desire to do. He will perhaps lay a mite in the offering occasionally, and this will likely never add up to much. If difficulties of the economic sort come up for the congregation, then he is glad that he stands off to the side, and can avoid placing his shoulders under the burden in order to help carry it. Instead he goes in the other direction to someplace that is more rewarding. This is splendid, and he feels that he is so free. How things would go if everyone were to do the same thing – he does not think about that.

If difficulties of the spiritual variety appear in the congregation, for example through sin, in this case he will also be glad that he stands off to the side. To be part of the congregation and share in its sorrows and concerns, wash feet, correct immoral practices, search to find the lost and restore the fallen – to this end he feels no calling. Quite the opposite, he thinks like this: “God be praised, that I do not belong there!” This is indeed splendid, and he feels that he is so free.

If the congregation’s preacher is not that talented or begins to become burned out, then Mr. Comfortable goes to some other place, where people can provide him with a better preacher. And now is when he really feels the benefits of being free. To be part of the congregation and help lift up and support the preacher – no, his spiritual insight and his Christian love do not extend so far, that he realizes or feels that he might have a duty to do something like that. If the preacher becomes old, sick or feeble, such that the congregation needs to support him, then Mr. Comfortable can of course complain to the congregation when they do not do that right. But for he himself to be involved and help carry the burdens, to that end he feels no obligation. He of course does not belong to the congregation; he only went there as long as they had something to offer that he liked. Now he goes and eats with other people, until he happens to find yet another place, where he can eat even better without any cost or inconvenience or worries.

When the kingdom of God appears, he is perhaps expecting that the Lord will say to him: “You good and faithful servant, who defended the true evangelical freedom, go on into the drawing room and find yourself a seat right in the middle of the sofa.”

This is a highly serious matter. May God help all Comfortable Christians to a right mindset!

Paul Peter Waldenström was a Swedish revival preacher, and served as editor of Pietisten from 1868-1917.

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