The childhood story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is, among other things, a story about mediocrity. Goldilocks was a fastidious little girl who wanted everything to be just to her likes — to be just right for her.
Goldilocks didn’t want porridge that was too hot or too cold. She didn’t want to sit on a chair that was too big or too small. She didn’t want to sleep on a bed that was too hard or too soft. Goldilocks found comfort in everything between extremes, which is exactly where many Christians prefer their commitment to God.
Webster defines the word mediocre as meaning: “of middle quality, neither very good nor very bad; ordinary; commonplace; average.” Goldilocks Christianity can best be described as mediocre Christianity, or Christianity that is bland and blah.
Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle, who lived in the 19th century, observed: “There is a common, worldly kind of ‘Christianity’ in this day, which many have — a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice — which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”
Why do some choose to embrace a common and cheap Christianity?
For some, the cost of a cheap Christianity is just right. The price is not too high and not too low. This kind of Christianity is affordable because it does not make too many demands nor does it risk offending people by asking too much. It asks just enough to make people feel good.
One of the most attractive things about a cheap Christianity is that most people can work it into their budgets and calendars. It gives people enough of a sense of God to make them feel good but not so much that they feel convicted about the shortcomings and compromises in their lives. It does not ask so much that people take offense or so little that people feel insulted.
Like Goldilocks, a cheap Christianity is concerned about comfort — not too soft or not too hard. It is easy Christianity. It is Christianity by name more than by deed, by confession more than by expression.
Cheap Christianity is anemic and passionless. It does not appreciate being held accountable for being and doing less than. It is a dull Christianity that does not make others thirst for God. It does not pierce the darkness. It has no urgency but rather prefers to move at its own pace. It is a Christianity void of earnestness, enthusiasm, and intensity. It is essentially powerless.
Cheap Christianity is fueled by a lower-shelf commitment — the kind of commitment that is within reach but that does not require one to strain in order to grasp. It is characterized by a just-enough kind of commitment that makes no unsettling demands and stops short of being painful. It produces no martyrs, inspires no great deeds, and leaves no memorable legacy.
This new year offers us an opportunity to go beyond a cheap Christianity. Each of us must take inventory of our own lives and become more keenly aware of the line that defines the farthest we’ve ever been and the most we’ve ever done for God and His purposes.
And then, we must step across that line and put ourselves in a context where God can do more in and through us than we ever imagined. Let’s embrace greater intimacy with the Almighty this year and allow Him to use us to bring hope and healing to a hurting world.