Risk-Free World and the World God Created
“When it comes to human relationships, most people prefer they were risk free. They want things to be easy and comfortable, free of conflict and problems, so they do all they can to avoid getting hurt, disappointed, or rejected if at all possible.
Even in relationships with family and friends, and especially in romantic relationships, they make a huge effort to ensure things will turn out right (meaning risk free) in the end. People want guarantees, if possible, that things will go well for them—that things will “turn out right in the end.” Perhaps that is an adequate description of you. If so, you are likely someone who does one of two things (or both) in relationships and friendships with others. One, you may be extremely careful how much of yourself you share with or invest in others, so you keep part of yourself from being known. Two, you may be extremely picky about who you become close to (unhealthily so).
Like many of us, you don’t want to get hurt, disappointed, or rejected. Feelings of rejection are not only not uncomfortable and painful; they can be crippling. So you eliminate the risk (or chance) of experiencing those possibilities. At least, as much as humanly possible.
“Eliminate risk”—think about those two words for a moment or two.
Is this even possible?
To eliminate risk?
The sobering reality is that life does not work this way.
A risk-free world is simply not the kind of world we live in. More to the point, it’s not the kind of world we live in because it’s not the kind of world God created. The world God created involves various elements of risk, not just in relationships and friendships, but, as we considered above, in everyday common situations most of us find ourselves in as part of our daily and weekly schedules.
In the last section, we looked at the possibilities of loss and gain involved in risk. But what in fact makes risk, well…risk? What process is involved within us that make us aware internally that something is a risk? Consider our ability to make choices.
Whenever there are two or more choices to be made about anything in life, there are varying degrees of risk. Choice itself creates the possibility of risk (whether real or perceived) since risk involves assigning value to one thing over and against another. This will at times create internal conflict in us because sometimes we value two things at the same time, and yet we can’t always choose both. But when we feel we need to (or should) decide between those two things, conflict arises. This is true with weightier decisions like buying a new (or used) car and with less weighty decisions like texting a friend about where you want to meet for lunch (unless by chance your friend is someone you’ve been dating for a while, and you are planning to propose to that person at lunch).
So choice (having the ability to choose) creates both the possibility of conflict, which then leads to the possibility of risk. We might say that conflict is inherently part of risk. In order for something to have a perceived risk, it needs to (along with that) include a point of conflict.
Risk is often a real problem for people because conflict is a real problem for people. A large number of people (especially in my country) were taught to strive for the kind of life that is free of conflict almost like it’s a right or something they deserve. For Christians who lean in this direction of thinking, their theology about God and life is then filtered through that lens—that life should be absent of conflict and or risk.
To suggest that risk and conflict are not only realities of this world but that God designed the world like this on purpose is both a surprise and perhaps even shocking to consider for many Christians.
There are of course some of you who are exceptions. You came from home environments where certain kinds of risk-taking were valued and affirmed. But as a norm, the average person seems to lean toward living risk-free, conflict-free lives.
Let’s bring the topic of risk and conflict back into the conversation of authentic human relationships. All relationships always involve at least two people. This is true of relationships with friends, family, spouses, potential spouses, coworkers, and yes, our relationships with God.
That’s two personalities.
Two approaches to communication.
Two approaches to finances.
Two approaches to raising a family.
Two approaches to teaching children.
Two approaches to work ethics.
Two approaches to politics.
And yes, even two approaches to matters involving spirituality, faith, and Christian practice.
It is true that two people may have a lot in common (maybe more than most), but there is always going to be various degrees of differences in any relationship you have.
This dynamic creates at least the possibility of conflict(s) and subsequently risk(s).
However, conflict and risk don’t need to be viewed as bad, wrong (even sinful), or things to avoid. Rightly understood, recognizing that the world God created involves degrees of conflict and risk can actually be liberating, and this may allow you the mental and emotional space to notice and appreciate very good things that God has been able to bring out in our lives that could not have otherwise happened if risk and conflict were not part of God’s plans and purposes for this world.
The idea of a God who created a world that operates (at least in part) by risk is not a popular idea in a great many churches.3 Unfortunately, this also means that any serious consideration or conversation associating God with risk is not given much of a chance in those settings.
Part of the irony is that for people to make any assessment associating or disassociating God with risk, they have to actually weigh the pros and cons (i.e., the risks) of associating God with risk. (Do you see the irony?)
The other ironic piece is that the Bible is loaded with risk language associated with God, his salvation, and human relationships. God is portrayed in many places as seeking meaningful interaction with the humans he created; his attempts are sometimes greeted positively with open arms, and at other times are rejected and looked at with utter distain.
Could it be that God (himself) has risked?
It could rightly be said that God’s saving plan that resulted in coming to earth to become one of us; calling the Jewish people back to their vocation to being the light of the world; confronting the religious authorities for the way they were tripping people up; being arrested, accused as a criminal, and then dying a horrific and brutal death on a Roman cross…was all in some sense a risk that God took.
People could choose to embrace what Jesus was (and is) doing and saying in this world. They could choose to embrace how he was living and how he was dying, or they could walk away, reject him—or worse, turn on him. That is exactly what happened.
This doesn’t mean God’s saving plan backfired or that his risk-taking was naïve—“Didn’t God know people might reject him?” If we view risk as a positive thing, God’s intention to risk his life for the sake of others was a risk well spent. No plan backfired. By looking at risk in a positive light, God planned and intended to risk his life for the sake of others, in fact, for the sake of the whole world. There was and remains a chance (hence the risk) that people will embrace him with open arms (a possibility of gain), or shrug their shoulders and walk away (a possibility of loss). That is the chance he took.
I submit to you that the God we meet in the face of Jesus is a God who weighed the risks because the kind of world he created (purposefully) and set in motion is the kind of place where risk was (and is) an essential element within creation.
This is the God who risks.
Of course, the joy in God’s risk-taking is that many throughout human history have responded to him positively. They have not only said yes to him, but they have also said yes to the way of life in him that Jesus challenged and invited us into. This way of life enables us to live to serve the betterment of others (in his name) rather than living for ourselves any longer.”
The above content is taken from a section of chapter six, “The risk of authenticity,” in Peter’s book Authentic Christianity: Why it matters for followers of Jesus (2018)