What if? What if the worst-case scenario happens? The single mom steals some silverware, the foster child hits you with a toy, the homeless person steals your wallet? What then?
We live in a risky world. The American church seems to be dividing, not over doctrine or theology, but over tolerance of such risk. A large number of evangelical Christians seem to have lost a category for risk. We are not the first Christian culture to do so, and I cannot cast stones, for I have often chosen safety over risk in terms of ministry opportunities for myself. “I can’t allow this person access in my life because they might [insert fear].” “I don’t want this person in my community because they might [insert fear].”
If the truth is told, such fear is often legitimate. If I allow a single mom to stay in my house, she might steal my silverware. If I take in a foster child, they might cause me emotional or physical pain. If I minister to the poor, someone might take advantage of me.
We can make up many such scenarios in which ministry is coupled with risk. But what if the worst-case scenario happens? What if the single mom steals some silverware? What if the foster child breaks your dishes or hits you with a toy? What if a homeless person steals your wallet?
Risk isn’t a bad thing for a Christian. More importantly, when the worst-case scenario happens, it doesn’t mean we were wrong to risk. Of course, Christians should seek wise counsel when considering ministry opportunities, particularly those that clearly involve risk. Wise living in the stories of God’s children in the Bible often involved putting oneself in a place in which the outcome was in question.
Esther risked. Ruth risked. Rahab risked. Despite the possibility of a very bad outcome, they risked and experienced what we traditionally think of as a good result. However Stephan risked too, and his outcome in the book of Acts is one we would like to avoid. Corrie ten Boom risked to help Jews during the holocaust. She ended up in a concentration camp, but she was freed and gave testimony the rest of her life of God’s care for her. Many see her outcome as good. But Betsie ten Boom, her sister, risked in the same way and died in that same concentration camp. Her risk cost her life. Yet, can we not firmly say as believers that the risk of both was good and right?
What risk are you considering today? What ministry is the Spirit leading you toward even as your mind works through the potential pitfalls of such ministry? When we read the New Testament, or missionary biographies, or the history of the early church, we see again and again that the walk of faith involves risk. When those who do not know Christ allow risk to stop them, that’s not good, but we can understand it; when we Christians don’t want to risk for the good of the oppressed, I think we don’t understand much of Jesus or the New Testament Church. “They that lose their lives will find it.”
Believers are uniquely equipped to risk, for we know our way is secure in Christ. There is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We can trust God sovereignly to work out even hard outcomes (when the risk goes bad) for our good (Romans 8:28). Through our union with Christ, we do not enter risky ministry situations on our own. He indwells us and equips us, so we can confidently say,
The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
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