Months ago, I had a conflict with a friend at church. There were several conversations and many tears as we tried to work it out. Finally, it boiled down to different values and parenting philosophies. For my friend, one of her foundational values is safety. She sees her main role as a parent to protect her children from harm.
Now, I don’t want harm to come to my kids or even me. But I’ve come to understand that on my list of priorities as a Christ-follower, avoiding risk and staying safe are farther down on my list. I’m not talking about acting foolishly, but I am talking about taking potentially risky actions because it might help further the gospel.
And yes, it does come down to the level of my children.
My oldest son prays for Petr Jasek almost every night before bed. Two nights ago as I tucked him in, I suddenly realized my son’s view of God as a good God could be influenced by Petr’s situation.
“You know, God sometimes allows bad things to happen to us,” I told him. “We don’t always understand why, but God does. Petr’s family obviously wants him home, but they also know that God is using this situation. They would rather have Petr stay in prison and serve God in the best way than to have him home. God’s way is always better than our way.”
I don’t know how much of that made it into his 6-year-old mind, but we’ll keep reemphasizing it.
This idea was brought up again to me in a book I recently read, called We Died Before We Came Here. Author Emily Foreman lost her husband when he was killed by al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa. Their family sacrificed much by choosing to serve God in a poor, undeveloped and hostile area. They were “paid back” by the devastating loss of her husband.
But Emily, her family and husband were already prepared for such a moment. They “understood that ‘safety’ was not a New Testament concept but merely an American one. Jesus never called his disciples to safety but rather to obedience. …He never denied that hardship would be part of the bargain. …Ultimately, it boiled down to one thing: Was he truly worth of our lives?” (pg. 19)
She talks of especially struggling with that concept in regards to her children, and the “balance between common sense and faith,” but ultimately concluded that it was fear holding her back. She chose instead to fight the daily battle against fear.
“We prayed against it constantly,” she writes. “And fear was definitely one of the biggest roadblocks to the growth of the small community of local believers… In this country there were only two choices: Be a Muslim – or risk the loss of your job, your family, and potentially your life. Of course our friends were afraid. But we knew that the church would not grow until they were willing to push forward in the face of persecution – not out of recklessness, but as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Out of love for God and those around them.”
Out of love for God and those around… ME. In spite of her great loss, Emily had her priorities straight. And I pray that I always choose to put love for God first, love for others second, and then farther down the list as I daily die to myself, the hope for safety.
Dory P and her husband both work for VOM. Some people thought it was pretty risky for them to move to Oklahoma for VOM. They hope the prayer of their kids isn’t, “Keep me safe, Lord!” but instead, “How can I serve you, Lord?”