I’ve become distinctly aware of how our preference plays such a vital role in our everyday. We choose food that we prefer, go to places we prefer, watch shows that we prefer and then naturally try to avoid the opposite of them all. In truth it isn’t always that difficult a thing to achieve because our world is increasingly built so that we don’t have to experience any discomfort. The goal of our world is to produce shorter queues, quicker delivery times, less hassle and increased customer satisfaction. Now, if I am being honest, this works to my advantage too because who wants the opposite? However, I wonder if all of these “improvements” are training us to become something we were never meant to be?
What do I mean?
Well, I think back to my parents generation or the generation before that. This was a time, certainly here in Northern Ireland, where there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to what was eaten, where it was possible to travel to and if you even had something to watch a show on. In my mums words you “ate what you were given and went where you were told.” Preference didn’t really come into it, the vast choices we experience today just weren’t on the table (quite literally).
When I look back to the generation before me I see how not being constantly driven by what was preferred or comfortable created something beautiful in people. They had the ability to commit to something even when it is hard, they had the ability to endure difficult moments, they had the patience to see something worked out to it’s conclusion.
When I look at my generation I often see the opposite; as soon as something gets hard we choose not to commit, we don’t endure difficult moments as we’d rather blur them out and we see fewer things worked out to their conclusion but have become experts in starting a lot of new things. This is most likely down to how we have been trained by our culture; “If it feels good we’ll do it and if it doesn’t we don’t.”
When we roll this into community we see a distinct effect too. When we live a life that is focused on our preference we ask; “What’s in it for me?” “Is this fulfilling me?” “How am I growing?”
When we live a life that isn’t focused on our preference being our number one decision making tool, we will be more willing to serve others where it costs us, more able to go the extra mile for someone in need and more likely to lay down our rights so that others can receive their’s. I wonder if we need to start asking some better questions;
“What is this discomfort making available for someone else?”
“What price could I pay so that someone gets to walk into life for free?”
If we have a relationship with Jesus, and we begin to apply this, it begins to shape how we live out our faith. No longer is our preference the guiding grid of whether church was good, bad or ugly. No longer is preference the decision maker when it comes to where we serve everyday. No longer is preference the god at which we worship. We gave up our rights to follow Jesus, and out of His mercy He longs to see us enjoy His creation and His church but we must never misunderstand the truth that He is the King and we aren’t.
Our preference isn’t the goal, His presence is.
Let’s flip the question this week. Instead of asking whether we liked something or not, let’s ask better questions, questions that seek to see what was released for others, questions that wonder how the community at large benefited rather than the community of us. If we are following Jesus let’s ask whether that sermon or song which we may not have cared for could have changed someone else or moved them into a place of blessing or revelation. This week let’s begin to prefer one another rather than build a world that is formed around us.