Risk Aversion and God's Mission

Having Confidence in God

Safety has become one of the major gods of our time. Everyone is familiar with the philosophy of "Safety first!" and we do everything we possibly can to keep safety the priority. It has even become one of the major drivers (if not sometimes the main one) in our decision-making processes. There is big business in selling the many products that promise us safety. A person now needs a home alarm system, car alarms, a cell phone and insurance on everything, all to "protect" ourselves.

The internal message lurking behind the overt message of safety is fear. We have bred a society trapped in fear. And that insidious fear hinders us greatly…Of course, the reality is that what we mean by being safe is only what feels safe. While there are ways of minimizing our risk, there is nothing that can guarantee our protection and well-being. There are only gadgets and choices that make us think we are safe.

Meanwhile, when safety becomes a priority measure in our lives, I believe it traps us in the ordinary. Our kingdom imagination is limited when we stop risking for the gospel. The question for me is this: Are we willing to knowingly take risks? Are we prepared to turn over our fears and insatiable need to feel safe to God as an offering? Are we willing, for the sake of the kingdom, to face dangers head on, knowing that we cannot even pretend to protect ourselves from the consequences?

A major aspect of the search for safety centers on control. The idea is that the more we can control a situation, the safer we can make it. We want to influence the outcomes as much as possible. The concept of entering a situation and not being in charge is, for some of us, a completely overwhelming thought. But in a theological sense, control is illusory. Does God give up his control to us? The answer is absolutely not. God asks us to trust him to protect us, but he does not give up or share control.

What then is risk? It is not wild, indiscriminate actions, but rather the ability to count the cost of an action. Risk in a theological sense is understanding the reality of a given situation—its capacity to cause us inconvenience or even harm—and then surrendering that given reality to the larger reality that our kingdom imagination and our God-confidence offer us. Our personal risk is then placed in the context of the greater good—God’s dream for the world we find ourselves in. Any risk is (or ought to be) acceptable if it is in service to the greater good, and if we trust that the greater good will establish itself regardless of the circumstances, then risk becomes functionally irrelevant.


Taken from Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World by Leroy Barber. Copyright(c) 2012 by Leroy Barber. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

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