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Regaining a Theology of Danger

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Sunday at the local church. Four policemen wandered the campus during the Sunday morning service. They were there just to keep people inside safe. I thought about it, and it flipped a switch inside me. We avoid risk. We plan. We prepare. We hire security guards. But we are missing the p…
By Seth Barnes

Jesus hand

Sunday at the local church. Four policemen wandered the campus during the Sunday morning service. They were there just to keep people inside safe. I thought about it, and it flipped a switch inside me.

We avoid risk. We plan. We prepare. We hire security guards.

But we are missing the point.

Jesus was dangerous.

After being baptized and launching his ministry, he immediately took on the local authorities. In their first meeting, they recognized him as a threat and tried to kill him.  Maybe he met this danger each time he entered a new village. I wonder if maybe it’s one reason he kept moving.

Jesus told us the danger didn’t stop with him. As he spoke to his disciples, he made it clear that in this world they would know hardship. In their efforts to love, they would upset apple carts and make enemies.

Here in America, we introduce him as meek and mild. But when he crashed and thundered across the Palestinian landscape, he was nothing if not a threat to the status quo.  And he knew the status quo had to be destroyed to bring true freedom and safety.

Danger occurs when something you value is put at risk.

Over the last hundred years, as our standard of living has increased, we’ve begun to overvalue comfort and convenience. Our willingness to risk has plummeted.

Furthermore, we have lost our theology of danger. Most of our theologians have little experience with danger. They’ve become armchair philosophers delving into interpretations from the safety of their desks. We need more people like Martin Luther who was willing to put his life and reputation at risk to help the body of Christ course correct. We need people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer willing to give his life for the gospel. We need people like Saeed Abedini willing to face the death penalty to follow Jesus.

As Jesus showed, the problem is that without risking our comfort and security, we can’t experience the abundant life he promised. We have to die to our small dreams to lay hold of his big dreams. It was a dangerous thing to teach that our only safety is in him.

We cannot escape danger if we are to fulfill our purpose on earth.

When we trust God enough that we’re willing to embrace risk, he loves it. “Without faith it is impossible to please him,” is how the Bible puts it (Heb. 11:6). The price of freedom is to dare to become dangerous as well.

God doesn't call us to run out on major commitments or to abandon our families for frivolity. He doesn't call us to irresponsible risks. But he does call us to put nothing or no one else before him. And he calls us to step out of our small comforts to live his big story.

As we are freed, so God intends for us to go free others. It’s the life Jesus modeled and it’s the life he has always called his disciples to. Jesus threw his disciples into the deep end. He sent them out with no backpacks or money.  And he wants to do the same for us.

What are you willing to put at risk in order to follow him?

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