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A Dangerous Life

December 28, 2021 by

When I was twenty-one and drifting, my older brother hinted that perhaps I should read the Bible cover to cover. He pointed out that our liberal, Quaker, folk-singer cousin was also twenty-one and had done it already. I was intrigued and liked to read anyhow, so I bought a New International Version and started. Admittedly I skimmed the pages that merely describe the measurements of the temple, but I really read it right through – all twelve hundred pages.

One thing that hit me square between the eyes was how Jesus lived a truly dangerous, adventurous life. This was really brought into focus for me by some passages that mark the beginning of his public activity. After reading from the ancient scrolls of Isaiah in a synagogue, Jesus declared that the prophecies therein were “fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). For that, the good people of the synagogue marched him to the top of an eight-hundred-foot cliff and prepared to throw him off. By dint of a major miracle, he simply walked through the crowd and away!

Dangerous Life Healing of the Blind Man. Artwork by Carl Bloch,1871.

Wow! When I read that I thought, “He was really taking on the whole world! This was all-out war!” Jesus calls us to a life of danger and derring-do. Mind you, he does not suggest the risk-taking which is self-centered, suicidal, or escapist. Other places in the Gospels where he gets in deep trouble are often times when he heals people in defiance of the rigid rules of the day. He has a point in everything he does: it is to honor God, to show compassion, and to plant seeds for the coming era, the coming kingdom, in which injustice will absolutely cease forever.

Jesus calls us to a life of danger and derring-do. This should give us all courage for the task, for the adventure of living. We need not fear. If our time has not come, the Lord will whisk us through the crowds, away from the cliff, so we can continue sowing good seed and disrupting the machine that pretends to serve Jehovah but actually serves the lust for money and power.

Anyhow (as William Barclay liked to say) Jesus was in the safest place by being in the most dangerous. By serving love and serving God, no matter what the cost, he avoided the soul-killing, enervating, lifeless plod of us people who ignore the Spirit and harden their hearts. Choose life, he says, even if by doing so you seem to be choosing an early death. After all, the human condition has been and will always be 100% fatal, so make the most of the minutes you have. And love is the best thing to serve by far, no comparison. In serving love, we are free, even though it brings us to some scary places, because love heals and reconciles. The greatest danger is actually the prospect of wasting decades by “playing it safe.” Too many of us look at the law of the land as being sacred – and sure, we need to respect it – but as Peter said, “we must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29)

You might ask then how we can avoid making martyrs of ourselves. Good question, and that’s where universal love and respect come in. If we spit in the face of a policeman, even during a “righteous” protest, is that love? No, we have demonized the authorities in our rage against inequality. Yet they are people too. As the apostle Paul says, “if I give my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).

My dad used to say “safety first” as a woodshop foreman, but by that he meant avoiding the unnecessary risks of sloppy and high-pressure living. When Martin Luther King Jr. took on the entire military-industrial complex in his speech at Riverside Church in 1967, he most likely knew it was a very risky business. He did it anyhow. He was assassinated exactly one year later. I’m sure if he could tell us now, he would say it was worth it. The thrill of speaking truth to power, of taking on the whole world out of love for the whole world, is where it’s at. This is what makes us men and women, what makes us truly human.

Even when God became truly human, he did it in an adventurous way. Being born “on the road” and laid in a manger in a land ruled by a blood-thirsty power-maniac like Herod was an extremely dangerous thing to do, but God took the tiny boy Jesus to Egypt, prompting Joseph and Mary in a dream. This poverty and love-driven danger is how to live an inspired life that inspires others.

The Lord’s healing comes through the ages, touching our hearts and saving our souls. It is not a life of dependence on rules or structures he brings, but inner comfort and hope. Merry Christmas!

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About the author

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer is a free-thinking Anabaptist, would-be poet who lives at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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