“Short cuts make long delays.” - J.R.R. Tolkien
“Convenience decides everything,” said Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. Modern man is fixated on doing things faster, cheaper, easier, and more efficiently. In his article, “The Tyranny of Convenience,” Tim Wu writes:
"In the developed nations of the 21st century, convenience . . . has emerged as perhaps the most powerful force shaping our individual lives and our economies. This is particularly true in America, where, despite all the paeans to freedom and individuality, one sometimes wonders whether convenience is in fact the supreme value."
We live in an instant society. The rate of our travel, communication, and access to information spoil us with their immediacy. We’re frustrated with long lines. We’re annoyed with delays. This is a problem for Christian discipleship.
Christians devote themselves to the call of Jesus, “Follow me.” But to follow Jesus is neither convenient nor quick. Eugene Peterson calls it “a long obedience in the same direction.” Like an apprentice, you devote yourself to your Master. You follow and learn over a long period of time.
Life in an instant society has produced a “Christianity of convenience.” Follow Jesus on your own terms. Fit him neatly into your pocket or your calendar. Make your faith work for you. When Christianity gets hard or makes unpleasant demands, find an easier way.
Convenient Christianity doesn’t have the patience to follow after Jesus. It’s in a hurry to find short cuts. Self-help preachers peddle Christian life hacks to make the journey more appealing to an ever impatient clientele.
“How can we do this Jesus thing easily?” But Jesus said, “The road is hard and the way is narrow” (Matt. 7:14).
“How does faith fit into my schedule?” Jesus says, “No, how does your schedule fit into my time?”
“How can I fit Jesus into everything else I have going on in my life?” Jesus says, “No, how do you fit into everything I’m doing?”
Jesus teaches us inconvenient things that take time and require sacrifice. Like this: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) Set yourself aside, pick up an instrument of suffering, and lose everything to follow the Nazarene carpenter. This is not the catchy slogan that we expect would compel millions of followers.
Nonetheless, billions of people have journeyed this inconvenient road of Christian discipleship. We do so because of the Person who called us to follow Him. He himself walked an inconvenient road, setting aside comfort, security, and power. He denied himself, took up his cross, and lost his life. When someone willfully chooses the road of suffering for the sake of others, we sit up and pay attention. We even join Him along the way.
Convenience is not inherently evil, nor is inconvenience inherently a virtue. But our greatest virtues are only acquired in the school of inconvenient experience.
The long and weary roads of life teach us that we have limits. Slow and laborious circumstances confront us with our frailty and urge us to faith. Here we learn the necessary skills of the Christian life.
Such virtues cannot be learned in a hurry, nor can they be expressed in haste.