We in the West do everything within our power to keep ourselves out of harm’s way. We are routinely told the state is always seeking to protect us. In fact, we are ostensibly engaged in two wars to this end. Our leaders know that we are in some danger all the time and they remind us routinely that they are doing everything that they can to protect us. This is one of their roles according to Romans 13.
But I admit I am puzzled by how reactive we are about self-protection. In a class I taught last week we discussed Dietrich Bonhoeffer because I assigned the reading of Life Together, one of his best works. We asked, “What would be our reaction if our local church knew there was a distinct chance that a service might be disrupted by a terror attack or armed opponents?” We agreed that we would probably tell everyone to stay home that week. We would never want the whole church in harm’s way, ever. I understand this response but I also have a growing concern that we have little or no understanding corporately of the calling of Jesus to follow him to death when, or where, it becomes necessary. We left that part of the message out when we promised people a “feel good” relationship with Jesus and a happy fulfilled life with plenty to spare.
A student of mine related the story of a Columbian Christian who worked in dangerous areas. This worker, and the church, was warned about a possible attack on their church service. He answered: "Jesus told me to go. He never said I would come back. Isn't that the life of a Christian?"
I honestly doubt very few churches, or leaders, in America would give such counsel if the occasion arose to face possible threat on our gathering. I am not sure I would but it made me think a lot more about my life and what I am living and dying for each day. When Jesus called us to follow him, as Bonhoeffer aptly said, “He called us to come and die.”
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Excellent commentary, John! We had an inch of snow a few weeks back on a Sunday morning and half the church stayed home that day. Why? Wouldn’t want to risk getting hurt just to try and go to church! I am afraid that most of don’t begin to comprehend what it means to follow Jesus to the death!