I love Target.
My wife and I have a habit of going there regularly. And during the pandemic, our fondness for the store only increased, especially since they started bringing our orders out to our car as soon as we drive up. (Almost as good as our front door… Did I mention I love Amazon?)
We live in a consumer society. Most of us have the means to consume, as well as the choice of what to consume. One of the things that I love most about Target is that I can stroll up and down the aisles and purchase as much as I want, or I can choose not to purchase a single thing. (Okay, who am I kidding?)
One thing is fairly certain, though: when I go to Target, I tend to buy the things I like, not the things I don’t. I’m guessing you probably shop the same way I do. Freedom of choice means freedom to choose the things we enjoy and avoid the things we don’t.
However, consumer attitude can’t be the same mentality we bring to our faith. In a consumption model, we are masters over our choices, but in a right relationship with Christ, he must be master over us.
Paul realized this after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and his world turned upside down. From that point on, he would no longer enjoy the privileged position of being an admired and respected religious leader of his day. Instead, he would be ostracized, beaten, shipwrecked, and ultimately killed for his faith. Yet he would consider his life in Christ better than the one he had experienced before — so much so, that he would “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I might gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). And then he says something surprising: “that I may know him and the power of His resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (3:10). This kind of thinking runs counter to the consumer mindset of preference and convenience. Paul recognized in his calling something deeper that transcended the simple economics of pleasure and pain.
Have you and I discovered this transcendence? Or are we just hoping for some bread like the crowd Jesus encountered in the first century (John 6:26)? Are we in it for the bread, or are we in it for the Bread of Life who can satisfy much more than our appetites?
A consumer Jesus is not the real Jesus. A consumer Jesus will never take us farther than our own wishes and desires. A consumer Jesus can’t change the lives of those who are only looking for circumstantial improvements. A consumer Jesus is a genie Jesus, one that we keep on hand to meet our demands but not to fulfill his. Such a Jesus is no Jesus at all.
When it comes to your faith, don’t be a consumer. Be consumed — by his love, by his grace, by his forgiveness. Be consumed by his calling, not so that you can avoid suffering but so that you can triumph through it. Avoiding suffering will never make us who we were meant to be. Following Him in spite of our suffering, and because of it, will do just that.