I’ll start with a little self-disclosure; I am not a thrill-seeker. I have no desire to bungy jump or to bail out of a perfectly functioning plane. I want nothing to do with shark cages or double-black diamonds. 80 MPH is about as fast as I won’t to ever drive a car. The most thrilling thing I ever do is the occasional gravity-defying roller coaster.
When I hear about people who do these sort of death-tempting escapades, I admit to a slight tinge of envy. Society admires those type of people, sometimes even labeling them as courageous. There’s a part of me that wishes I was like them and relished the next opportunity to point my skis down a nearly vertical slope and really not care what happens to my bones at the end of it all. But that part of me is much smaller than the part that desperately wants to avoid all such situations!
I don’t know how much of any of the above activities are actually courageous. Some might use that word and others might use the word stupid! I use neither word, and I realize that being a thrill-seeker isn’t inherently virtuous, but very much tied to one’s personality. That’s not to say that jumping out of a plane may have not been very theraputic for someone afraid of heights and very well might require real courage. Whatever the case, the simple reason I have not done so myself is because I don’t want to!
There are many people who might find skydiving a piece of cake compared to getting up in a pulpit every week and speaking to a couple of hundred people. Again, we are not really talking about courage in either case, but rather personalities and preference. But I am rather taken by this idea of the autonomy God gives us to make our own choices in life. And quite frankly, I just simply choose not to do a number of things in life, because I don’t want to and/or they make me uncomfortable.
It is not difficult to see how this autonomy can short-circuit faith development and kingdom impact pretty easily. While God may not care if you go skydiving, he very much cares about whether or not you share your faith with others. He cares whether or not you reach out to those living in poverty or the homeless. He cares whether you can surrender biases to love all people as Jesus does. He cares whether or not you become committed to your church family. He may care if you pass on that opportunity to teach a bible class for the children or go across the world on a short-term mission trip. Simply put, God may care about a lot of things that we don’t do just because we don’t want to.
It is too easy to be comfortable and to elevate our own preferences above the leading of the Holy Spirit. God gives us this autonomy, this freedom not for our indulgence, but so that our choices might be genuine. As Paul reminds us in Gal. 5:13, “You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (NIV, 1984)
“Serve one another in love” is not some soft feel-good command. It looks something like getting crucified for the sake of others. It’s the spiritual equivalent of grabbing a parachute and taking the jump–in some situations it might even be jumping without the parachute! And I confess that I too often haven’t served someone else in love simply because I didn’t want to.
Following Jesus is not a safe venture. By its very nature, it is filled with danger and risks. Taking such risks is the only way to give flesh to trusting in Jesus. Anyone can say they trust Jesus, but will you jump out of the plane with him, so to speak.
I used to be bolder in my faith, but comfort is so appealing. It isn’t Jesus who lures us to comfort as the resting place of our faith. How can we be bolder, more adventurous in our faith? How can we turn our autonomy back over to God and instead of doing what we want to do, do what he wants us to do? I’m not sure of all the answers, but part of the solution is becoming aware of just how insulated and comfortable we’ve made ourselves (or more personal–how comfortable I’ve made myself).