Study Guide: Beyond the Comfort Zone

Sunday May 4, 2008 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Some of Jesus' words were very challenging to the people of his time, and for us. One of the traits that he gave strong warnings about was hypocrisy – when our “public” lives don't match who we really are. Keeping these parts of our lives aligned is a major challenge and it almost always requires sacrifice. We don't like to move outside our comfort zones, but it's what is required if we want to partner with God to build his Kingdom.

Extended Summary:

In this passage, Jesus is as confrontational as you will find him. In the previous, he confronts the religious leaders. But here, he confronts the disciples and in doing so, he confronts modern disciples in some unexpected ways. If we read carefully and listen to what Jesus was saying, we can see how his words confront American Christianity in some very uncomfortable ways.

Jesus challenges His followers to stand guard against hypocrisy. The major point of this passage is that living for God without hypocrisy means willingness to be rejected, suffer and die. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were professional hypocrites because they were consumed with appearances, approval and comfort. Jesus wants his followers to understand that it is impossible to live for God authentically and be concerned with appearances, approval and comfort.

In the first century, there was a very concrete application of Jesus’ words. Followers of Jesus would have their lives threatened for aligning themselves with the Kingdom of God. Early followers of Jesus were tortured and killed for their faith. If Jesus warned people facing torture not to become hypocritical by putting fear of suffering and death before him, how much more do His words of warning apply to us American Christians who have trouble sacrificing anything for Christ?

Most of us say we’d sacrifice our lives for Christ, but we have tremendous trouble sacrificing anything in our lives for him. The idea of sacrificing our life is acceptable because it is not a reality, but when we get practical and think about the stuff in our lives, we want to enjoy these.

Such a challenge directly confronts the American dream that leads to an addiction to appearances and comfort. This is exactly what Jesus was confronting in the Pharisees. We need to listen to these words and allow them to challenge the nature of our discipleship and see how we need to change how we live.

Reflection Questions: