The risk taking God
The Risk Taking God
In The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch challenge us to leave the idol of security behind and courageously live the adventure that is inherent in our God and in our calling. They encourage us to explore the nature of adventure, risk, and courage and the implications for church, discipleship, spirituality, and leadership. Here is an extract from their book,
“For good or for ill, we are all players in the living drama going on around us. God [the risk taker] has designed us as decision makers in his very image, as agents of the kingdom, not only to partake in history, but to prayerfully shape and direct it in his name as a true act of worship. And the part we play will depend largely on a clear sense of our mission, on the level of intentionality in what we do, and on the fortitude and integrity with which we do it. In short, it will depend on our desire to muster not only leaps of faith but to cultivate a faith of leap.”
“This idea—that we all have our parts to play in a grand unfolding story—is variously portrayed by Tolkien’s marvellous characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One particularly wise character, Samwise Gamgee, proves his uncomplicated genius by rightly locating his and Frodo’s plight within a larger, now unfolding adventure, the outcome of which no one could predict. Whilst approaching Mordor, and resigned to their common fate and calling, he says to Frodo,
“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”
Frost and Hirsch comment,
“Frodo and his friends have no guarantee, perhaps not even the likelihood, that the quest will succeed. In fact, they seem to be constantly moving toward danger, never away from it toward any kind of permanent safety. They seem to constantly inhabit a place of discomfort and agitation. The Fellowship’s quest to destroy the Ring—having no guarantee of success but rather an immense likelihood of failure—is not unlike any true quest of life, and perhaps especially true for the disciple. As people caught up in the Jesus story, we can interpret life truly only from within a larger gospel narrative where we all play a part in the constant unfolding of God’s purposes in his world….we are in the middle of an open-ended story of what Jesus is doing in the world, and this story must continue to be written by Christians in every age and context. We are the people of the ultimate risk taking Quest—we are on a wild, and sometimes dangerous, adventure to save the world.”
Thomas Jay Oord, reflecting on the Risk Taking God, reminds us that risk, the moving beyond our comfort zones is both a God given ability, but more deeply is part of what it means to be created after God’s Image. The risk taking God is not a reckless God, but a God that moves out from His own secure Triune community, to engage His created world with genuine love and vulnerability. God is Sovereign and Lord over the Universe, but enters into the reality and fragility of life and is willing to take His own calculated mysterious risks in ways that do not jeopardise His ultimate plans, but also embrace the real possibility of those plans being jeopardised.
As I’ve reflected on the Risk Taking God three examples came immediately to mind:
The Risk Taking Creator God
When God creates human beings He gives them the capacity and opportunity to make genuine free choices that have the potential for good and evil. Since free and self-giving love is how the Father, Son and Spirit coexist in their relational community, so the forming of human beings in the Image of God, enables human beings to love God and one another relationally. But for love to be true love it must not be forced, or coerced or controlled and manipulated, but must spring from a free and self-giving heart.
As Ord says,
“In a God-created world of free creatures, there are few sure bets. This God-intended-freedom-formula allows for the possibility of beauty and ugliness, happiness and pain, love and sin. God apparently thinks the risk of creating and empowering free creatures is worth the chance those creatures would by inappropriate actions, generate ugliness, pain, and sin. Apparently, God’s desire for beauty, happiness, and love motivates a divine gamble. Love is the riskiest business of all. Love takes chances. All bets are off.”
The Risk Taking Incarnational God
Perhaps the scriptural passage that best expresses this is the hymn in Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2. This so-called “kenosis” passage, God’s “self-giving” or “self-emptying” reminds us that God in Christ, did not use His rights and privileges of divinity to force His reign and kingdom upon the peoples of the earth. But rather he set aside His majesty to enter our world, born as a baby to a hostile world and dependent upon the willingness of Mary and Joseph to accept Him, and care for Him. As Kendrick says in his song, “From heaven you came helpless babe, entered our world Your glory veiled.” The Lord of the Universe crosses time and space, and enters into our world in the form of a vulnerable servant. This servanthood included being, “humbled to death” on the cross. Humility is risky but it is not foolish for this is God’s way. God’s risks are weighed up and chosen for the possibility of giving life. And yet God risks everything on the most audacious and daring plan: to become one of us, to live in our shoes, to share in the fragility and brokenness of our life, so that we may be healed.
The Risk Taking Missional God
“As the Father has sent me so I send you”
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
God is the Missionary God that calls and invites us to join Him in His mission. But Leslie Newbigin, the great Father of the missional church movement, reminds us that God has placed this mission in our hands. We are given responsibility to “Go” to the peoples and places He has entrusted us with. And this is not an easy task. Like the apostles we are sent as “sheep among wolves” and are to travel lightly fostering a dependency on God alone. We are taken to unusual places in unusual ways and at unusual times, and will face hardship and opposition. We will not always know what to do and what we do will not always work. We will fail and have setbacks, but we will also see unimaginable possibilities and dreams become a reality. And in all of it we go in the power and presence of Christ.
Newbigin in commenting upon the story of the parable of the talents tells us this is a story about utilising the opportunities and ministries God has given us for His purposes in the world. One servant is given 10 talents, one 5 talents and one is given 1 talent. The difference between the servant with the one talent and the servants with 5 and 10 talents was not the amount he was given, but his desire to play things safe. Newbigin says that he was the only servant unwilling to take a risk with what was given to him. And so He buries it out of fear of the God Who willed him to take the risk.
There is no doubt that mission has been entrusted to us in a partnership with God. This is risky for him and for us! Though God is before us, and in us, and with us we still are His only hands and feet in the world but God wills us on!
As Ord says
“Mission is risky business. It means taking chances and being susceptible to failure. It involves a measure of dependence upon those not always dependable. It means convincing others – through our lives, our relationships, and our ideas – and that means risking rejection. Mission requires humility, vulnerability and mutual dependence. If we truly wish to imitate the One we consider worthy of worship, we too need to embrace the risk and dependence that love requires.”