Illustration: I recently had the opportunity to join a police officer on patrol. He apologized that the shift wasnt more exciting. I was okay with that.
We are not accustomed to taking risks. About as risky as most of us get is managed risk. We devote so much to playing-it-safe. Every morning the talk shows let us know what we should fear and tell us how to be safe. I am glad that we have weather radar and as I was watching the reports of the storms last night I marveled at how the technology could pinpoint the action of tornados. I realized that this was a private company that owned this hi-tech. They invest in it because people are interested in being safe.
However, risk is part of life and especially life in Christ. As a friend recently said, No one said this would be easy. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:20.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 8-9. Paul reflects on the life that follows Jesus and he acknowledges that the world resists the gospel even though it is good news. Why? Because the darkness has veiled their hearts. Their vision has been obscured. But when we have beheld the light of the gospel, we have a hope that allows us to take risks not for the sake of being risky, but for the sake of the gospel.
Clay Jars That Shine Like Stars
Today our brothers and sisters in Vietnam and Laos worship. Worship is a very risky activity for them to do. But we admire them for taking the risk. Why do they take that risk?
What would you say about a group of believers that moved their worship out of suburban safety and into a neighborhood plagued by drug abuse and burglaries? Not an outreach, but they moved everything down there! They take it for granted that their building will be broken into and that equipment will have to be replaced. Would you consider them foolish? Bad stewards? ( Is Jesus going to get really upset over a stolen sound system?) Would you call the believers fanatics? Why do they take the risk?
Whether they are in Laos or the Southern United States, these risky Christians seem to be playing by a different set of rules. I suggest that they are simply taking their calling seriously. Why should it be any different for us - we are trying to conform to Jesus Christ rather than the surrounding society. Dont we realize that that is risky?
When we follow Jesus Christ, we have different priorities that may act against common sense. We are not going to conform to the dominant culture in every way. Are we okay with that? I dont mean that we wont conform to the things we dont like but we will also not conform to some of the things we do like! To be faithful to Gods mission we must often stand in contrast to the culture around us. (Read Philippians 2:12-18.)
Clay jars that shine like stars the light of the gospel shining off the treasure. We are different. We are called to follow Jesus and we are shaped by scripture. And that means we will have to take some risks for the sake of the gospel. But what sort of risks?
Whats so risky about the Gospel?
God is calling us to take some risks, not risk for the sake of being risky, but for the sake of the gospel: [Note: I am indebted to Paul Clark and Jeff Christian for suggesting these three examples of how the church takes risks for the sake of the gospel. These points come from their unpublished sermons based on the Treasures In Clay Jars book edited by Lois Y. Barrett]
1) IT IS RISKY TO BE COMMUNITY: We live in a very individual age. Living in unity with one another in the church can be challenging.
I have never forgotten the story I heard Rick Atchley tell about an elderly sister who was walking into the foyer of her church house one Sunday. She looked over the bulletin board that featured pictures of the mission in Africa and she said softly, I wish they would stop baptizing so many of those kind of people. This sisters version of heaven was segregated. A pearly gate with the banner "WHITES ONLY" above it and a back gates labeled "COLORED." How can we be one in heaven if we cannot live as the community of Christ here? Do we think that Heaven will have high-rent and low-rent neighborhoods?
It is risky to live in community with others when we have a play-it-safe and build tall fences mentality. I think we would be more effective at sharing our faith if we would just simply be kind to people in the community and talk to them about God. What if we welcomed them to our home before we welcomed them to worship. I am convinced that people go to church with who they know. This risky living in community is how we unleash the treasure?
Christ took the risk of creating community. He wanted community and unity between us and God.
2) IT IS RISKY TO BE GENEROUS: It is risky to share with one another and with our community without expecting a return on our investment. We are generous with our wealth, but shall we also be generous with our love.
3) IT IS RISKY TO BE DIFFERENT: When the Christians of the second century were ridiculed and scorned by the society around them. They were called incestuous, cannibalistic, and atheistic. They didnt overcome this by standing up for their rights or wielding their power to influence. They certainly didnt overcome by conforming to the expectations of a dying culture. They overcame by kneeling in prayer in the arenas where they were slaughtered. And do you know who they prayed for? The Roman Emperor.
Taking Risks can be fearful - especially in church. That is because everything else in culture is changing so quickly. We want to have some place we can come that stays the same.
But the reason there are some things that do not change is not because someone opposed change. The reason is because some people did something to be faithful rather than do nothing because they were fearful. They took a risk for the sake of the gospel that does not change.
Treasure in Clay Jars
Lesson Four: Pattern 3 Mar. 12, 2006
Taking Risks for the Sake of the Gospel
What is this lesson all about?
Attachment 1: A Parable On Perspective
One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
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