“All who want to come after me must say not to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will be saved” (Luke 9:23-24).
Reading various responses related to Syrian refugees and letting those who have gone through a two-year vetting process enter America in the newspaper and listing online, I am impressed with our desire for a safe, risk-free America. It is almost as if some are nationally advocating that we live like the little boy in the commercial exiting the family van. His mother has dressed him in a football helmet with catcher’s mask over the helmet and a matching chest protector, shoulder pads and hockey knee pads. Incessantly the mother is giving instructions about being safe and not doing anything that is dangerous or risky.
With most of us I laugh at the ridiculously over protective parent. And yet … there is a part of me that deeply understands and appreciates such desire for safety. I want my family safe! I want my country safe! The randomness of terrorism is terrifying. Which brings me to a still deeper reflection.
I am conscious that risk and fear are yoked to discipleship and courage. Much of my internal argument (and our external debate as Christians with the larger political culture) over risk and safety pushes me (us) back on my (our) relationship with Jesus. The Lord challenges me (us) to reject the rule of fear and let Him (Christ) rule. Fear remains but it does not reign. One of C.S. Lewis’s comments comes to mind. It is a scene from his famous Christian allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the scene Mr. Beaver is introducing the children to Aslan, the great Christ character who appears as a mighty lion.
“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan [the youngest of the 3 young human children in the allegory]. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver … “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom not the fear of this world (Proverbs 9:10). The Apostle Paul reached for this great biblical truth when he wrote: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Roams 5:1-5, NRSV).
Divine courage, Holy Spirit-infused endurance, brings us to grace filled hope in deeper discipleship. Risk in Christ’s name and at His service brings us to true thanksgiving. Whatever actions politician’s take, Christians reach out with the love of Christ. Jesus isn’t safe. The Christian life is a call to a great adventure in service to the living Lord. Such hope does not disappoint us.
In scary submission to Christ, I am (we are) delivered to the deeper joy of thanksgiving. Those Pilgrim fathers and mothers who risked the storms of the north Atlantic knew this truth. Those Native Americans who risked reaching out to those same pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving in the “New World” live such truth (even if Christ was yet unknown to them!). Now it is our time to step up and step out for Christ.
Sunday while sitting in worship I listened as the Arborlawn UMC choir sang the great prayer verse “In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful.” Prayerfully listening I was transported back to my time in France a couple of years ago. At Taize we sang this same praise chorus in a variety of language. The words are an appropriate prayer for our time of Thanksgiving.
“In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful,
In the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to God, do not be afraid.
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near,
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.”