Monday, April 6, 2015
This morning while drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper, I learned that over 200,000 people responded to an ad looking for adventurers willing to take a rocket to Mars—and never come back. There’s a nonprofit in Holland working to colonize Mars with humans. Never mind that the frozen stuff on Mars is dry ice, not water, and the ticket to go is one-way. Seems the thrill is enough to warrant certain separation from family, friends, and commitments, not to mention death. Not everyone is so bold, however. The column contrasted the bold adventurers with NFL linebacker Chris Borland who recently decided to step away from pro football because he believes the benefits of playing aren’t worth the risk of concussions and long-term head injuries. So that’s our choice, the article suggested: A life of gusto vs. one of calculated risk-avoidance.
Columnist Bob Greene boiled it down: Decades on a park bench…. or a one-way ticket on a rocket to Mars?
The article left me wondering, what would I choose?
It implies that only the weak would opt for the humdrum existence, and not the adrenaline rush if given the choice. But not so fast. “Mars or Lame?” is a false choice. Most of us won’t have a shot at either Mars or an early NFL retirement. That Dutch company has whittled its list down to only 100 volunteers, and the likelihood of making it to the NFL is, for most of humanity, nil. So where does that leave the rest of us?
Not lazing on a park bench, if we’re paying attention to even a fraction of what scripture says.
A Risk Worth Taking
Writing to Gentile believers, Peter commended Paul and Barnabas, describing them as “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). Though their lives were full of physical adventure, their adventures aren’t what Peter honored. He esteemed their reason for doing it: the name of Jesus. That is a risk worth taking.
Every believer is called to do the same. We may not face wild animals, angry mobs, shipwrecks, or venomous snakes like Paul did, but we are called to live for Christ with the same selflessness and abandon. Part of living for him is obeying him. And this is where the hard work of Christian discipleship benefits from our exertion and energy.
Jesus calls us to lay our lives down for one-another, to help the weak, to be faithful in marriage and sexually pure at every stage of life. He commands men to work hard to provide for their families and women to work hard to care for and nurture them. Want to live the adventure? Get married, have babies, join your church, serve joyfully, share the gospel, be generous with your money, show hospitality, respect those in authority. This is the truly challenging work of a disciple, the good works that flow from our salvation, of the sort we can only do in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Risks for the Good of Others
In our consumer culture where the individual’s drives and desires take precedence over everyone else, there will be great and increasing temptation to risk only for yourself. But God didn’t make men strong so they could protect themselves. He gave them broad shoulders and lean muscles so they could bear the weight of defending others. He didn’t make women nurturing and capable so they could help themselves succeed in all their ventures, he made them to help others, and specifically, their own husbands in marriage.
Most of us won’t have a shot at such outlying glory as taking a rocket to Mars or playing professional sports, so why even bother mentioning this article? Because we breathe the cultural air that enlivens it. We’re vulnerable to this way of thinking in two important ways:
Bob Greene says you have to decide for yourself what you’ll choose, citing a “time-honored slogan: Whose life is it anyway?” He gets the right question, but gives the wrong answer. We are not our own. For those who are trusting Christ, we belong to God.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
If all my sacrifice in marriage and mothering finds me on a park bench one day watching my grandchildren tossing a football, I’ll know that moment included endless sacrifice. There’s more than one route to a park bench. And the one I’m taking, while not the stuff of action/adventure movies, is the stuff of the truly heroic.
A diabetic wife giving birth, and giving birth again, at the risk of her own life, that’s heroic.
A young husband working two jobs so his wife can stay home with their new baby, that’s heroic.
A soldier flying around the world to liberate oppressed men, women, and children, that’s heroic.
Zooming to Mars on a rocket for the thrill of being first, or for the rush, at the risk of your life, that’s not heroic, it’s folly.
Christ does call us to come and die, to lay our lives down, yes, but not for ourselves. Always the heroic call to adventure is for the good of another.
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