Risk: theological reflections
Thus far in this series, I’ve considered some of the missiological issues involved in risk as well as the complexities of medical evacuation. But the point of this series is not just about making the ‘best’ decision: true wisdom must be grounded in faith, that is, in trusting God. There are three theological themes that help me here: creation, incarnation and victory.
God is the loving ruler of his world. He made it; he loves it; nothing happens apart from his sustaining of it. There is nowhere that we can go where he will not see us, love us, sustain us. Nothing happens in God’s world that he doesn’t know about. We can trust that whatever we experience happens under God’s watchful eye and fatherly care. That gives us courage to surrender our need for control because we know that our heavenly father has everything in control.
As we surrender our control, however, we do so to someone who knows what that is like. God the Son chose to surrender his own power to his Father, even to death. He knows how scary that is; Jesus is our example of trusting God. And he trusted the Father even to death. It was purposeful as well, with the goal of bringing many of God’s children to glory. Some things are worth the risk.
I heard of some missionaries whose child got sick and died in Zimbabwe. They found comfort in the knowledge that God’s son also died ‘on the mission field’. Jesus knows what it is to trust the Father; the Father did not hold back even his Son. And he knows what it is to experience the heartrending loss of a child. As we take risks, we have the comfort of knowing that the Father to whom we surrender our control is not unsympathetic to our fears.
Creation and incarnation partly solve the ‘what if?’ question. Creation responds, “Nothing happens outside of God’s control”; the incarnation tells us, “God knows what this feels like.” But without victory, both of those can sound a little hollow, a mere ‘there there’.
But the victory of Christ over sin, death and the devil changes that because our perspective shifts. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that we too will be resurrected, that death is a temporary thing for we who are Christians. That’s why we can confidently say that nothing separates us from the love of God, because to use the cliche, death is not dying. We can take risks because this life is not all there is. Our emphasis need not be entirely on preserving it. The world can take our health and or even our life, but nothing will cut us off from the greater reality we belong to. We trust God that there will be a wonderful reunion with those who have gone before and glory and joy beyond anything we know here. When we are raised, we will stand confidently before God’s throne because of the work of Jesus and the ‘eternal life’ that is ours now will be ours fully.
Now, all that might sound like a reason to throw caution to the wind but throughout this series, I’ve been careful to acknowledge the wonderful gifts God has given us to use. In the final post, I’ll draw together these threads.