Kingdom of Risk

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I wrestle daily with what it means to fully give myself to the way of Jesus, and what that looks like as a family. God has called us to learn beside our neighbors, and that seems to require some risk of relationships. I remember the day we packed up to move to inner city Atlanta from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The reality of that moment was both joyful and painful as we left neighbors and extended family who were close to our hearts. Our community risked their love on us, and the chance they took marked the way we hope to love others. When we arrived to “the united states of Atlanta,” we joined into a beautiful community of homegrown neighbors who have lived here for decades. Our neighborhood was founded in the late 1800s for freed slaves in Georgia, and this place we love is now home.

We moved into a great family home that had gone into foreclosure, and began to set down our roots. The Spirit led us to a tough street that allowed us to step into a movement of God already in motion. Here we met neighbors like Miss Annie, who passed away this summer. She endeared us through her willingness to reach out and risk her love on us-like the time she sent over baby gifts when our son was born. In remembrance of Miss Annie, neighbors recently gathered in a circle during a community prayer walk to honor her life. She loved our children, and we loved her.

Now is the moment to really go for it-I’m convinced that risking love is critical in today’s global climate, and that risk is linked to establishing the new diverse family Jesus came to establish. It is time to dream new dreams, and step up to the risk, now. History precedes us and tomorrow is upon us, and risk, especially Kingdom risk, will shape the future.

Jesus came to us, became flesh and blood like us, as a child growing up among us, befriending us, risking with us and for us, joining us in our poverty. Jesus embodies risk. Risk is a good thing when measured in prayerful discernment, and risk triumphs over folly when wisdom guides our action. Risk may mean danger, and danger can be safer than never risking at all, especially when discerned and lived in community.

We serve a boundless God who has always called people to make high-risk decisions under seemingly daunting circumstances. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Abraham obeyed and went, even though he did not know where we was going.” For thousands of years, followers of YAHWEH remained a remnant of risk takers, and the practice continues today.

Even when rest and Sabbath is a priority, stress is a normal part of following Jesus. Who told me that God is safe and balanced? Could faith equal risk? No doubt. And it seems that walking humbly with our God is a process of risking love for others. To love my neighbor, I must share my life with vulnerability. And as I learn to enter my neighbor’s story, I receive an open exchange of risk and learning, my narrative with his. We love out of risk and we risk out of love-for each other.

In today’s economy, the cost of love is Kingdom collateral with a high return on investment. Becoming a diverse community of faith is a dangerous yet joy-filled life never to be traded once experienced. Risk isn’t unique or heroic, but it does require intentionality. Risk extends a hand, evaluates value and explores the future potential of a community. Risk leads to an unexpected creative process, where we develop new friendships and discover new dreams. Risk jumps into the mix, launching a vision planned for and prayed about. Healthy risk cares first about the other, putting the neighborhood interests above its own, in the tradition of Jesus.

In God’s Kingdom, risk and vocation work together, searching for places where God-given talents find expression in the love of neighbor. Exploring the frontiers of new relationships, especially across the chasms of class and culture, is an essential priority if the great Command is to be realized. In this era of history the neighborhood with its diversity is becoming a central place for life and faith. It is the intersection where the Western church can join our global brothers and sisters as a community of risk takers.

“Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us.” II Cor 4:11 (The Message)

Posted on September 21st, 2010

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