Imitate God—Take Risks!

June 29th, 2010 / 83 Comments

Mission is risky business. It means taking chances and being susceptible to failure. But God seems the biggest risk-taker of all!

Mission requires vulnerability.  It involves a measure of dependence upon those not always dependable.  Convincing others – through our lives, our relationships, and our ideas – means risking rejection.  Mission requires humility.

A Kenotic God on a Mission

More and more Christians are coming to believe that God is on a mission.  God is not resting alone, content, and disengaged.  God has not predestined all things with a blueprint set in stone long, long ago.

A missional God – missio dei, if you think the Latin words sound cool – is a God who becomes vulnerable, dependent, and risks rejection.  A missional God, to steal words C. S. Lewis used in his description of Aslan, is “on the move.”

Perhaps the scriptural passage that best expresses this is the hymn in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  This so-called “kenosis” passage – Greek words can be just as cool as Latin – expresses the kind of humility present in effective mission.

Biblical scholars translate kenosis in many ways, but they most often render it “self-giving” or “self-emptying.”  Paul suggests that Christ, whose nature is divine, took the form of a servant.  This servanthood included being, as I like to say, “humbled to death” on the cross.

Humility is risky.  And yet God took the ultimate risk in the self-giving love of Jesus.

In our everyday language, “risk” is often preceded by “foolish.”  Unfortunately, this combination of words – “foolish risk” – occurs so frequently that we may assume risk-taking and wisdom are antithetical.

If God is supremely wise, the kenosis passage suggests risk and wisdom can be joined.  Instead of “foolish risk,” God’s risks are judiciously chosen for the possibility of promoting abundant life.  But they’re still risks.

I’m reminded of another C. S. Lewis line.  What a Narnia character says of Aslan, we might also say of God: “He’s not safe.  But he is good.”

God Creates Free Creatures

In a God-created world of free creatures, there are few sure bets.  This God-intended-freedom-formula allows for the possibility of beauty and ugliness, happiness and pain, love and sin.

God apparently thinks the risk of creating and empowering free creatures is worth the chance those creatures would by inappropriate actions generate ugliness, pain, and sin.  Apparently, God’s desire for beauty, happiness, and love motivates a divine gamble.

People take risks all the time.  Economists tell us that we live in economically risky days.  No kidding!  Buying, selling, investing – it’s a crap shoot right now.  A college buddy of mine now works as a white-water rafting guide.  Next to bull-riding, it’s as risky a livelihood as I know.

But I’ve come to think that the riskiest business is the love business.  Love takes chances. All bets are off.

God is Partly Dependent

I mentioned earlier that risk also involves a degree of dependence.  Love involves dependency too.  Both rely upon responses from others.

To say that love and risk entail depending on others is to imply the potentially unsettling notion that God is dependent.  I say “unsettling,” because we’ve sometimes been led to believe that God doesn’t really need us.  God is wholly independent and gets along just fine without us, thank you very much.  Many have considered God fully self-sufficient, self-contained, or, to use Aristotle’s word, “unmoved.”

While it makes sense to think God is self-sufficient in some ways – e.g., God doesn’t depend on us for God to exist – the lessons of love suggest that God also depends on us in other ways.  After all, it’s odd to think that a totally independent person can have genuinely loving relationships.  Love takes (at least) two (baby).

I sometimes tell my wife how much I need her.  I tell her I depend on her.  When I say these things, I don’t mean I would stop existing or fail to be human should she die.  I don’t mean that I would evaporate in a puff of smoke were she to stop loving me.  Rather, I’m acknowledging that my love includes my depending on her to do her part to establish and maintain a full and satisfying relationship.  The logic of love requires this kind of dependence.

Besides, what’s so bad about depending on others?  Isn’t it the rugged individualist – detached, alone, and aloof – whom we worry is emotionally and socially stunted?  Do we really want to imitate the recluse?

More and more Christians are realizing that risking some dependence on others is not only a risk worth taking but essential for what it means to live a healthy life.  Community matters.

Be Like God

Paul not only says that in kenosis God is self-emptying, he also writes that we should “imitate God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved you.”  Paul’s instruction to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another” precedes this imitatio dei command (just had to throw in the Latin again).

I sometimes wonder if our fears of divine risk and dependence reflect more our deference to modernity than a thoughtful analysis of divine love.  If we truly wish to imitate the One we consider worthy of worship, we too need to embrace the risk and dependence that love requires.

Missional theology attempts to describe a risk-taking God … on a mission.  And it suggests that we ought to join with God as “fellow workers” or “co-laborers” on that adventure.  Missional strategies may gain significant traction if we welcome the logic of love in missional theology.

But beware that it’s risky business!

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Comments

Paul DeBaufer

I had though I knew what Paul meant in his instructions to husbands in Ephesians 5:25 when he tells them to love their wives like Christ loves the church, to lay down their lives. But as I read through The Nature of Love (thank you for that, it came at the perfect time!) I came to realize that I really didn’t know squat about the Ephesians passage, that my understanding was superficial.

It was then that I connected the instruction in Ephesians with Philippians 2:5-8. What a humbling passage this is. The God of the universe, the Creator of all that is, was, and will be gave up His rights as God in the ultimate act of love to come all the way to us. Risky? You bet! If God can humble himself like that and take that kind of risk, who am I not to?


Brian Fitch

Thomas,

That is a great blog entry. You are right on!! I may use some of your thoughts but if I do I will give you credit. My people would know I’m not that insightful anyway smile


Hans Deventer

Good post, Tom. Ever since I read John Sanders’ The God Who Risks I’m quite convinced about the truth of that statement. The interesting part of course is to wonder how far that concept actually goes, and to what extent God is responsible for creating a world with those incredible risks, that, as we have seen, include immense suffering. Apparently, He considered the risks worth taking.

The entire discussion in this area still haunts me.


JE

God is on a mission for sure, but more importantly, God IS mission.


Brian Hull

Great post and very helpful! 

I have been doing some work on the Missional Church, especially regarding the Gospel in our Culture Network (GOCN).  Interestingly one of the marks of a Missional church from an early book from GOCN, Treasure in Clay Jars, is one that is “Risk Taking as a Contrast Community” which makes this point exactly.  The reality is that it does take risk to love.  It also often means that many will not understand our decisions, will not agree or even fight against our decisions, but we must continue on this way of love.  It sounds a bit like holiness to me!

Thanks for the blog!

Peace, Brian


Curtis

Tom,

This post has come at a very interesting time. I spent most of the day rewriting my chapter on “God’s trust.”  Much of what you say here could seamlessly be inserted into that chapter. When you say God is dependent and missional I say God partners and entrusts. Very harmonious notions.

It is really too bad that the term “co-dependent” has such negative connotations. What a powerful idea this is of our relationship with God and God’s with us.

I’d like to say “keep up the good posts” but can you save a few of the intriguing and insightful ideas for me?  grin

Curtis


Bob Luhn

I have invited a Mormon to read the Scripture before I preach this next Sunday. I may have taken a bigger risk than I should have based on the anger voiced so far. It seemed like a loving thing to do at the time, but I’m struggling today. The conversations I’ve had with this person has led me to fan the flame of faith rather than require an orthodoxy before inclusion. What do you think?


Thomas Jay Oord

Bob,

I find myself often surprised by two contrasting experiences: 1) I’m surprised at how much I can agree with Mormon theology and 2) I’m surprised at how profoundly I sometimes disagree with Mormon theology.

I’m not sure I have much advice for your situation. But I do hope it can become a moment to push faithful Christians to reflect more deeply on our similarities and differences with others.  Perhaps such reflection—and engagement—can become a form of transformative love.

At least that’s my prayer.

I think I can speak for others who read this blog when I say we’d like to hear a report sometime on what you did and how things went…


Nathan Napier

Tom-
  Great topic and timely considering the advent of paradigm shifts in missiology.  I like your categories and find them helpful as they provide tools with which to understand the Divine mission.

The Missio Dei is a necessary topic and I was delighted to find that WTS would be dedicating the conference this coming year to the exposition of this theme across various disciplines.  An aspect of the missio dei that I find is often neglected, I suppose this is in part due to our hyper-evangelicalism as Nazarenes, is that this missio dei has already commenced, as your points above so aptly mention.  You highlight the “risk” of mission, of the mission of God to toward creation.  I fear that too many folks, body of believers, etc, feel that they have to contrive a mission and then get busy about ‘evangelizing’.  This approach misses the very biblical premise that God is already at work in the world.  God is already at mission to save the world and bring it to a place that is Christ shaped.  It is not our task to contrive the mission or to call up the publishing house and find a better way to expound the “Roman Road.”  It is simply our task to see, hear and notice where God is working in the world and join with God there.  God needs (is dependent) our participation, not our invention when it comes to mission. 
    The Book of Acts and the Jerusalem Council narrated therein is ample evidence of this.  The leaders of the Jerusalem Church, such as Peter, did not believe that God could be working among the goyim, the Gentiles.  Paul was there testifying that God was working there, among these people that heretofore we not part of Gods mission, and it was the Church’s task to join God there regardless of prior theological conceptions or limitations.  The council did succumb to Paul’s testimony (albeit with a few orthodox admonitions) and the remainder of the New Testament is a witness to what happens when the Church ceases dictating mission and decides it will join God in the risk God has already chiefly taken.  I find this incredibly liberating and helpful as we begin to renegotiate older paradigms of mission…and work toward more authentic ways to join with God in the freedom of creation as God is always already at work.


Greg Crofford

Intriguing post, Tom. There is a resonance between the kind of open theology that you espouse and African theology, of that I’m certain. I’m waiting to get Greg Boyd’s latest book, the one of Satan/demons, but having read his GOD AT WAR, I can see what direction he’s headed. Does open theology necessarily have to end up in that kind of cosmic “free for all”? As my son, John said to me- after taking the SNU class on open theology – he’s “not sure what to do with Boyd on all that.” Thoughts?


Philip Clayton

Tom, nicely done. As you know, I strongly affirm the missional kenosis you describe above. The increasingly urgent question for me is this: how do we do church differently if we’re convinced that you’re right?

I am working on a post for Patheos.com on the future of the church. It strikes me that the church does not need radically different beliefs—we don’t have to abandon the Trinity, for example, in order to speak to today’s world. But, clearly, we need to reconceive what it means to be church and how we practice differently as a result.

I’d like to see you do a blog series on how exactly kenotic Christians will begin to form new and vibrant kinds of churches.

—Philip


Bob Luhn

As I introduced the Mormon lady to read Scripture, there was applause from the crowd as well as much visiting with her afterwards. I was proud of the Jesus followers who welcomed someone with significantly different understandings than most of “us”. I’m glad I took the risk, and I hope our future dialog will draw her closer to Jesus


Mark W. Wilson

It seems if we take risk seriously we need a theology of failure. I don’t mean apparent failure that is eventually or in some unforeseen way providentially success. Often we don’t know what to say to the pastor of a small church where despite prayers, love, and faithful serice everything sours and goes wrong. Or the parent who loves his kids, does everything right, and yet watches his kids turn hateful, rebellious, and self destructive. Our usual explanations point to lessons learned, character built, the redemptive benefits of suffering, or the mystery of God’s sovereign wisdom. Real love means real risk and therefore real failures. I love singing “Victory in Jesus”, but the Church hasn’t given me the theology to sing sad songs by rivers of Babylon or Myrtle Point.


Josh Myers

In being like God it is important to understand the potential to fail. We are not God and are capable of failure and we need to be sure this does not stop of from the pursuit of living up to the standard. We also need to be aware that as you said, God is dependent, we have a responsibility. God can not be in relationship with us if we choose not to be in relationship with him. If we are not in relationship with him, because of our free will, he can not use us. The idea of God being dependent on us in this way I agree with. We are all created for a reason, we all have gifts and abilities God has given us and as a creative God he has allowed us the freedom to use those gift in our own unique ways. I believe part of being in the image of God is taking our gifts and through a relationship with the father allowing him to guide us in ways we can share his love with creation through our own unique and creative ways.


Thomas Jay Oord

Hamish writes…

The Judeo Christian God is spoken of in a personal awe inspiring way because of his encounters in this world.  This God is spoken of as a provider, sustainer, comforter, and many other characteristics.  The God that is written about in the biblical scriptures is a God who cares for his creation and does not want them to perish but rather accept his love and live. 

This God wants all of creation to be made new and has employed his only begotten son, the Holy Spirit, and the church to make restoration a possibility.  Restoration comes through submitting and allowing God to be a provider, sustainer, … and many other characteristics. The commission for the church is to make the above message “the gospel” known.  The Trinity and the church are missional to achieve the Great Commission. 

I do not understand how this is risky business?  Maybe it was risky for God to give free will with the chance that no one would choose him, but people did choose him and continue to do so.  With God there is nothing left to worry about.  God will provide, sustain, … , so why stress about the risk of rejection.  Believers need to keep living out the gospel through relationships and community planting seeds that have every possibility of germinating.  Believers always need to hold to God and imitatio dei while being the imago dei.

The gospel is life therefore there is no risk of rejection in missions only risk of misunderstandings.

Hamish


Scott Carver

Tom- You stated, ‘If God is supremely wise, the kenosis passage suggests risk and wisdom can be joined.  Instead of “foolish risk,” God’s risks are judiciously chosen for the possibility of promoting abundant life.  But they’re still risks’

I’ve never thought about this idea of “calculated risk” or risk joined with wisdom.  You are right- God isn’t foolish, so God must think that risks to redeem humanity are worth the cost.  We all have to take risks in our life, and it is a good reminder that some risks are calculated by wisdom and others are just plain foolish.

Another idea that I had never pondered was the idea of dependence.  I had never believed that God really depends on us to be in relationship with Him.  Without both God and human there can be no mutual loving relationship.  Sure God could love us, or we could love God but this relationship centers around dependence.


Thomas Jay Oord

Hamish Seegers writes…

The Judeo Christian God is spoken of in a personal awe inspiring way because of his encounters in this world.  This God is spoken of as a provider, sustainer, comforter, and many other characteristics.  The God that is written about in the biblical scriptures is a God who cares for his creation and does not want them to perish but rather accept his love and live. 

This God wants all of creation to be made new and has employed his only begotten son, the Holy Spirit, and the church to make restoration a possibility.  Restoration comes through submitting and allowing God to be a provider, sustainer, … and many other characteristics. The commission for the church is to make the above message “the gospel” known.  The Trinity and the church are missional to achieve the Great Commission. 

I do not understand how this is risky business?  Maybe it was risky for God to give free will with the chance that no one would choose him, but people did choose him and continue to do so.  With God there is nothing left to worry about.  God will provide, sustain, … , so why stress about the risk of rejection.  Believers need to keep living out the gospel through relationships and community planting seeds that have every possibility of germinating.  Believers always need to hold to God and imitatio dei while being the imago dei.

The gospel is life therefore there is no risk of rejection in missions only risk of misunderstandings.

Hamish


Hamish

Scott,
About your last comment about relationships between God and humanity centers around dependence I have some thoughts.  A relationship with the divine cannot be analyzed in the same way as a relationship between people.  Relationships that humans have between one another can require dependence of one another.  We can petition and grant request from the other within means.  Humanity has no means when dealing with a relationship with the creator of the universe.  Meaning what could humanity provide God with that he needs.  To say it in a biblical paradigm I will use the English transliterated Hebrew word of hesed.   
There are five distinct characteristics that can be derived from biblical stories that aid in identifying an act of hesed.  1) The person asking does not have the means to do it for themselves.  2) Not receiving help will make the situation worse.  3) The superior party is the only means of help.  4) The one asking for help has no say in the decision of the superior party.  5) The superior party must have the opportunity to make the choice to help or not help on his own accord 1. The point of hesed is that one can help another out of love of their neighbor and have no ulterior motives.  The biblical word hesed means that humanity only has a relationship with God because God acts out of free will love and not dependence of the other party.
1.  Sakenfield, Katherine.  Love:  Old Testament:  hesed.  Anchor Bible Dictionary.
Hamish


Tom Foisy

Thinking about God’s dependence upon creation has major implications for mission. It means that we have a part in carrying out God’s mission. We are not pawns or puppets being moved around by God, but active participants. We have a response to make to God and an invitation to extend to others. God has taken a risk on us because He lets us choose to participate in His mission or not. And if God’s mission is dependent upon us choosing to participate, than He runs the risk of an unfulfilled mission. But the reward outweighs the risk; genuine love.

Thanks for the insight and challenging me to think about mission in a new way.


Jason Caddy

I have to admit that I am working through your thoughts on the “dependent” God part of your blog.  Your description, however, of your wife and her responsibility to maintain the relationship fits naturally with the way the Bible talks about God working.  There are many times that He talks of His blessings coming our way, if we walk in His way and follow His commands.  To think of His covenant with Abraham, and how he started the process of that covenant, is absolutely amazing.  He wasn’t saying that if He failed He would cease to exist.  He, being the “dependent” God, was saying that He would be faithful to do His part of the relationship as long as we were faithful with our side of things.  It still seems odd to say He is dependent, but the more that you consider relationship, community, and love the more that “dependence” comes across.  Thanks for the insight.


Hunter Mizar

Tom I think that the analogy that you gave of the relationship that exists between you and your wife in relation to our relationship with God is very helpful.  I find it interesting as you pointed out that God is not dependent on us for his existence and yet there is an element that God truly desires a love relationship with us his creation.


Joice Huett

God’s love is everlasting unlike the human race, we tend to fall short most of the time. We are love one another and forgive one another, but only with the strength from the Holy Spirit. I sometimes feel that we love each other as husband and wife but sometimes the ‘love’ has to grow more and more. I mean I can say I love you but saying is different than showing it. God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for all of us. This is a big sacrifice and how many people would do such a thing? We are God’s creation and to be created shows an everlasting love, because He took the time though only a matter of seconds, His love for things made it to where we exist today.


Emmanuel Reinbold

Dr. Oord. 

I have been processing your post, and have been stuck at the beginning:  “Mission requires humility.”  As we step up to take the risks that we are called to, there are many ways in which our attempts require humility.  Although we seek to follow God in the big picture, we often stick our feet in our mouth in the little details.  Just because we see the big picture doesn’t mean that we know all the steps to get there.  Sometimes in our attempts to uncover the truth of His calling, we complicate His plans by opening our mouths. 

You are very right, mission does require humility!


Jan Wilton

What a challenge! Just be willing to imitate God and be a risk taker. These great thoughts brought to mind times of risk taking that were worth it all; love for a second time, moving away from family and friends to go into full-time ministry, leading a group of ladies on a mission’s trip to Panama and driving the car during the Panama mission’s trip! I am grateful that God took a risk to create, love and care for mankind. Because He set the example to take a risk, I will continue to take up the challenge to be a risk taker. Thanks for the thoughts


Steven Larrabee

The idea of God being dependent of us I found surprising.  Yet, as you explained it I began to realize and understand what was being said.  It is an amazing thing to realize that God depends on us to engage with Him in relationship.  God gives us the freedom to choose.  He could have made us with no chose but instead in He gave us the option to engage in relationship or not. Your example of how you depend on your wife is a great example of how God depends on us.  He doesn’t need us in order for Him to exist but rather He has given us certain responsibilities and He depends on us to do our part.  The first would be to love Him make and the second would be to go and love the world.  The third thing is to go into the world and tell them about Jesus and make them disciples.


David Gossett

Tom,

One of the lines that caught my attention was, “More and more Christians are realizing that risking some dependence on others is not only a risk worth taking but essential for what it means to live a healthy life.  Community matters.”  The implications of this statement in our roles as leaders are huge.  To imitate God in our risk taking and being dependant on others can change the way we interact with those we lead.  We see people not as those we have to tell what to do but those we can rely on.  We have to depend on them.  We have to risk letting them work on their own.  We have to be able to risk and show love to people. 

Also, I appreciated the line from The Chronicles of Narnia about Aslan not being safe but good.  To take the risk is Gods way of loving us.  It is God’s way of showing us the good.  As a result of this weeks assignments I am thinking I really need to read Pinnock’s, Most Moved Mover.  It was a good read.


Michael Johnson

I believe that God has taken extreme risks in revealing His love to us and in allowing us to become ‘children of God’ . This personal risk He is taking is one of vulnerability and probable broken trust. It is a risk of rejection. It is a risk of infinitely messy proportions.
But without such a risk, we must beg the question is love, really love? Is it love that risks nothing? Is it love that reveals nothing? Is it love that once hurt, scoffed or rejected does not still pursue the object of affection?
The risks God takes in revealing Himself and offering us His love, is also the risk He takes in engaging us in His mission. I believe it was Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love that got me thinking about the irony of a “Humanity who doesn’t want God but needs Him, and a God who doesn’t need humanity but wants them”. I would pose however that because of the character and mission of God that He wants us so much that He needs us. He has availed His activity and mission to the beautiful confines and makeup of the body of Christ. Though He doesn’t need us (in order for Him to still be God), because He is who He is then He has created a means of abiding/relating/bringing together/evangelizing, in which He needs us.
What a powerful and loving God we serve!


Cheryl M. Haney

God is also a fellow suffer who participates in the world’s struggles and pain.  To say that God is independent, would challenge the logic of the divine self-emptying, that was revealed through the life and humiliation of Jesus the Christ.  Is the self-emptying love?
How are we to conduct missions if we are called missionaries?  If could take the divine self-emptying concept to the people maybe we could see transformation in our idea of the “western culture” when doing missionary work.  Who knows maybe that “divine gamble” risk-taking could result in a transformation of the American churches who have forgotten the mission field is just outside their doors.


Todd Barker

Tom,

I think that I can hear echoes of Pinnock’s The Most Moved Mover throughout your essay.  If love is forced then it is rape.  So true love must be open, must be risky, must be moving towards the other person, and truly good.  It also takes reciprocation to be complete.  This definition of love (or God) places a higher value on the human experience and gives more approachability to God.  It also exposes sin in a more meaningful way. 

One question or further thought about God and kenosis.  The very act of creating is ‘self emptying.’  It is also very risky.  Perhaps that is why there is additional beauty in that in the beginning there was just God – and God began to empty part of Godself so that we could be.  Sounds like real love to me.


Jerad May

Hi Dr. Oord,

I really appreciated this post.  Thank you for the challenge.

You wrote,

“In our everyday language, ‘risk’ is often preceded by ‘foolish.’  Unfortunately, this combination of words – “foolish risk” – occurs so frequently that we may assume risk-taking and wisdom are antithetical.  If God is supremely wise, the kenosis
passage suggests risk and wisdom can be joined.  Instead of ‘foolish risk,’ God’s risks are judiciously chosen for the possibility of promoting abundant life . . . “

I completely understand where you are coming from with the idea that while God takes risks they are calculated and with purpose.  However, I kind of like the connection that risk has with foolishness when it comes to describing the kenotic love of God.

The phrasing “foolish risk” rather than “calculated risk” I feel better and poetically describes the wonderful paradox of God’s loving nature.  God, the supremely wise or omniscient one, “foolishly” has, is, and continues to self-empty and pour out his love on a people who time and time again, reject the life, love, and freedom that he continuously offers.  So while God is wise, God in some respect is foolish . . . but in a wonderful way! smile

Two parables that come to mind that I feel perfectly describes this “foolish love” are the parable of “the Laborers in the Vineyard” (Matt. 20:1-16) and the parable of “the Prodigal.”  In both, the characters that are widely considered to be illustrations of God are in sorts wasteful (the literal definition of prodigal) and foolish in their gifts of love, gift, inheritance and compassion.

Perhaps we too have been called to imitate God and foolishly and kenoticly love those who little deserve it.

—Jerad


Brandin Melton

Dr. Oord,

I am really intrigued by this concept of a risk taking God.  I am also amazed at God’s timing, considering the fact that two months ago I planned out a sermon series that included a message on the importance of taking risks and it just so happens that the message on risk was scheduled for this Sunday!

One of the things that really struck me was your statement, “God’s risks are judiciously chosen for the possibility of promoting abundant life.”  What a great point!  God even knew that sending Jesus as our Savior was a risk.  There was the possibility that humanity would reject Him and even despise him.  And many have.  Yet God saw the risk worth taking.  What a powerful message.

If Griffin is right (and I think he is) and we are driven to imitate deity, then why do we as Christians so often play it safe?  We must move past the fear and selfishness related to sin and risk it all for the mission of God.


Brian Knight

Hey Jerad and Dr. Oord,

You both bring a lot of food for great thought. I have a hard time thinking that anything that God does is not calculated. In my view, I think there is a huge difference between risk-taking and gambling. Gambling seems to be throwing chance to the wind without much thought. Risk-taking seems to be a measured and almost required next step to accomplish the goal. God with His goal in mind was willing, motivated, and possibly required to take that next step into the unknown.

Jerad. While I might disagree with your view of risk-taking, I think “foolish” can still be included in that equation. Could you accept a “foolish calculated risk?”


Thomas Jay Oord

Scott Ketchum writes…

I appreciate your insights on risk-taking and imitating God.  Fear and failure seem to what keep most from risking anything in life, but in considering God’s mission, I don’t see failure as an option.  We risk setbacks maybe, discouragement, refining, reforming, but not failure.  Failure is quite final.  God’s mission may allow for a variety of means to the end goal, say with us or without us, but it is not set for failure. 

Is there real risk when engaging in God’s mission?  Knowing that His kingdom is coming – what do we have to lose in not engaging?  Maybe we’d miss out on a deeper drink of His blessing, a furthering of faith-formation, or perhaps a more humble experience of Jesus’ love.  If we’re not engaging in God’s mission, I think we risk missing the movement of God.


Thomas Jay Oord

Hamish responds to Scott Carver:

About your last comment about relationships between God and humanity centers around dependence I have some thoughts.  A relationship with the divine cannot be analyzed in the same way as a relationship between people.  Relationships that humans have between one another can require dependence of one another.  Humans can petition and grant request from the other within means.  Humanity has no means when dealing with a relationship with the creator of the universe.  Meaning what could humanity provide God with that he needs.  To say it in a biblical paradigm I will use the English transliterated Hebrew word of hesed.   

There are five distinct characteristics that can be derived from biblical stories that aid in identifying an act of hesed.  1) The person asking does not have the means to do it for themselves.  2) Not receiving help will make the situation worse.  3) The superior party is the only means of help.  4) The one asking for help has no say in the decision of the superior party.  5) The superior party must have the opportunity to make the choice to help or not help on his own accord 1. The point of hesed is that one can help another out of love of their neighbor and have no ulterior motives.  The biblical word hesed means that humanity only has a relationship with God because God acts out of free will love and not dependence of the other party.

1.    Sakenfield, Katherine.  Love:  Old Testament:  hesed.  Anchor Bible Dictionary.

Hamish


Dexter Daly

I really appreciate this blog and its content. The part on self emptying really grabbed my attention. It really reveals sacrifice all the way.


Travis Keller

I like to use the language of risk but if I am honest I do not like to take risks. There is something exhilarating about the idea of doing something different or risky. Of course, the life of Jesus and the self-emptying “kenosis” is something that is attractive. But when it comes down to it I wonder how much willingness I (and others) really have. There are many things about genuinely reflecting Jesus that frighten me. The last time I read the gospels, the risk of kenosis landed Jesus on the cross. I fear what taking risks might cost me. Security? Family (that has already happened to some extent)? Health?
I understand that I do not necessarily need to be foolish or without purpose but even when considering a calculated approach to being like Jesus… the outcome seems… too risky.
Just struggling out loud.
Peace,
Travis


painter 11

This is the 2nd instance I have encountered your site in the last few weeks. Seems like I ought to take note of it.


Jon Hawkins

“In our everyday language, ‘risk’ is often preceded by ‘foolish.’  Unfortunately, this combination of words – ‘foolish risk’ – occurs so frequently that we may assume risk-taking and wisdom are antithetical.”

I have to agree with you on this statement. Society has looked down upon those who take risk, because the end results could be disappointing. This could keep believers from growing in their relationship with God. If no one is willing to take a step out of his or her comfort zone, where can we be vulnerable to God?


Brandon W

“Missional strategies may gain significant traction if we welcome the logic of love in missional theology.”

My question is, why have we not been doing this since the church started?

The church was started to be the continuation and extension of Jesus. We like to say the church is the Body of Christ. Jesus ministry was completely missional. It was rooted in love.

Missional strategies will not only gain traction they will be exactly as Christ intended them to be. The church is supposed to be a missional entity. A body of believers that extends the love of God to the world.


Steve H.

Whenever I read the kenosis passage, I am reminded it (the self-emptying) is to be mutual. True enough, God was taking a “risk” by offering His Son Jesus. Paul tells us that we should have that very same risky kenosis attitude. Then in chapter 3 of Philippians, he shows us what it looks like for us to respond. Definitely, Paul took huge risks in following Christ. He gave up the whole identity he had created himself to be. Just like God gave Himself (Jesus) for His creation.
But why the risk? We take great risks for a prize. And there is always a price. For God the prize was us and the price was his Son. For us the prize is God’s Son and the price is us.
What do we do with this? We take Paul’s advice in Phil. 3:17. We join so many others who have followed Paul’s example in risking everything about us, for the prize, Christ.


Jordan

I really enjoyed this post. These ideas are some that I have been contemplating a lot as of late. The idea of Christ modeling such a self-emptying love has really hit me lately. I have come to realize that I really don’t actively pursue to imitate Christ to the level of love that he demonstrated. I like to think I am a fairly vulnerable person in the way that I love, but I think it is only because my natural disposition is geared towards openness. When I really think about it, I don’t really push myself outside of my comfort zone and stretch that vulnerability to love when I know I could very well be rejected. I often will let fear get in the way and allow it to keep me from loving people around me. I only offer that vulnerability when I am fairly confident that my love will be received. I am a coward in a sense, not wanting to “risk” my offering of love to be thrown to the ground. Yet lately I have been realizing the reality of the love I have been called to as a follower of Christ, and that reality includes loving selflessly whether or not I am received or rejected.


Dustin J.

I rather agree with the thought of taking risks.  I often think about what we are called to do as followers of Christ are we to sit alone in a bunker with the knowledge and faith we know Christ or are we called to take our relationship and spread it with those we encounter?

Without relationship with those who do not know Christ or the conversations which arise how are we supposed to express love? As you mentioned in your post love takes two, how are we supposed to express love as Jesus did without encountering others. I think this risk taking should be aimed at a certain category though. Is it a risk to speak and share Christ to those we know? To those who know Christ? Or should we take a risk by reaching out to those who make us uncomfortable? Make us stand up for our faith?


Kelli Simmons

Dr. Oord,
I had never considered the fact that in a truly loving relationship it does take two in order to keep it in existence and healthy. I struggle with the concept of God being dependent on anything or anyone. However, your comments about God’s prompting and our response would lead one to understand this as an interdependent relationship! Thanks for the great insights.


David Hater

This blog post on the risk of imitating God in the self-emptying business of mission is a great concept.  I really appreciate the idea of imitating God in this same way, as Paul stated, because we are called to become more like Him.  We should desire to be more Christ-like in every way, including this.  Paul also talked in Romans 12 about offering ourselves as a living sacrifice, and to me that matches up with the idea of self-emptying, which is very risky because it is saying I don’t know the outcome, but my life is yours to lead and guide.  This is the epitome of Christian living, to be most loving, self-giving, and sacrificial for the sake of others, knowing full well the risk involved.


Linsey M.

Being vulnerable is one of the most difficult and most uncomfortable things we can do. It is incredibly risky because it involves another person/people that we have no control over. They could reject us or hurt us. But, with big risk also is the potential for big gain. The flip side to this situation is that the same people could also choose to accept us in our vulnerable moments – to know us deeply and love us anyway. And what a beautiful experience that would be.
As a missional God, God takes this risk. To Him, we are worth enough to gamble His heart. We could reject Him or hurt Him. But, His potential gain is far too valuable to not take the risk.
This tells us God is a risk taker. It tells us God is dependent. It also tells us we are worth SO much to Him.


Melinda

What a great insight to love.  One of the key elements of becoming more Christ like is to love.  As a children’s pastor I try to instill into the kids how important it is to love.  Jesus didn’t just love his neighbors and His friends, He also loved his enemies (the bad guys, to the kids.)  This is such a hard concept to try and show the kids, but hopefully if we start early in their lives it will sink in.  God not only wants a loving relationship with us, but ALL his children.


Jared Trygg

Coming to terms with the idea that God takes a risk by issuing free will can be difficult. I am ever so quick to affirm free will, but to think that the city described in the Book of Revelation could be empty is hard to imagine. I don’t believe that will be the case, but with the freedom you describe, the possibility of God not being chosen to be in relationship with people is there and is a reality. Through all of the grace that God can offer, God is dependent upon whether or not God’s creation will respond to the invitation and all that lies beyond it. What I like about how you equate risk taker to God is that people so often assume that risk takers are stupid or addicted. In some instances, people almost see risk as sin. But this provides a great example of how risk can not only be a good thing, but it can be a divine thing.


Jerimy W.

Love is certainly risky!  Love not only demands that we stand up with and for one another, but it requires that we do so without any guarantee of safety.  Christian love, to be more specific, requires this sacrifice in the face of evil.  In a world where “kill or be killed” seems to be a growing ideology, this divinely-imitated love bears an even greater purpose.  We are not simply called to love those who graciously reciprocate that love.  Instead, we are commanded to love (and pray for) those who are trying to kill us and/or our message.  Just as God loves the world (a world, might I add, that is against God), we are to love the world.  Just as God gave of God’s self to reconcile the world, we, too, are called to selflessly and sacrificially give of ourselves in this partnership – this ministry of reconciliation – with God.
Is this risky? Certainly!  But I will gladly take this risk so that others may know the God that has taken a risk for all humanity.  Besides, the Christian’s odds are unbeatable… “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”


Austin Lamos

mo Latine… et Greaeca… et Hebraeus. Many times in the Bible we are called to follow after God’s example. We are called to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1), to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48), and, as stated in this post, to have the mind in us that was in Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Therefore if, as this post posits, God is a risk-taking God, we should likewise be risk-taking people. These risks should not be “foolish risks” but calculated risks. I talk to my teens all the time that to be a Christian in school is often risky, they risk being ostracized and outcast by their peers. But this risk is well worth it! Let’s be risky! It’s dangerous, but it’s good!


Mary Forester

Amen!
I fully agree with everything that Tom has said in this blog. The self-emptying of God to give us life through His grace and freedom is risky and is a humble act. For us to be Christlike, it requires the same thing! We can’t sit in our pews and think we know everything and are too good to be around others to reflect Christ. Being compassionate and kind requires being a person who looks beyond self-interests. God coming to Earth as infant in a manger as nothing is the ultimate humble act. It does reflect a missional life that we are supposed to live. God come to us. We are to go to others! Thanks for this essay!


Paul Darminio

I appreciate marriage as an example of what it means to be dependent in love.  It is something that I can relate to but more than that, it is an example that we see multiple times in Scripture to describe the relationship between Jesus and the Church, and how God loves us.  This kind of risky love reminds me of Hosea, and the lengths he went to in order to show love to Gomer, even as she rejected her husband and children.

The immutable, unchangeable, all-knowing, and ultimately unknowable God that many of us have been taught is not the God I read about in Scripture.  When I think of God’s character, as he has chosen to reveal it to us, this self-emptying selfless love is what I see.  It forces us to reconsider some of our notions about God, but I think that it ultimately leaves us with hope.  This is the kind of God I can worship, and this is also the kind of God I can trust, even when life is at its darkest.


Mark Mounts

Stepping outside the boundaries of one’s self requires a love for something whether it is jumping out of an airplane or asking your wife to marry you.  We are, from the get go, selfish creatures that want to fulfill our fleshly desires.  (All six of my children are proof of that from the minute I laid eyes on them).  But as a child or a person begins to love another or love something for a hobby they become less dependent upon themselves and more dependent upon the other person or the nuances of the hobby.  Love is a risk no matter what way your twist it.  Loving to jump out of an airplane is a risk, but the process is purely fun.  Stepping into someone else’s life is a risk, but through the process you begin to love them and appreciate them more and more.  The risks of love or huge, but the product is even bigger.


Sarah Dupray

I was recently speaking to an old Army friend about what it means to love like Christ. We started our adulthood on the same track and now I am an inner city children’s pastor. I made the comment to my friend that I wish they could spend a Sunday in my life so they could experience it themselves. It is exhausting and messy and completely wonderful. I get the pleasure of meeting the most amazing kids and teens. Some of them are idiots and out of control and unlovable but that is where the beauty of life lies… in loving the unlovable and seeing the look in their eyes when you do.

It is a risk. It is such a risk to love like God. I often feel jaded and cynical because the risk doesn’t always seem to pay off. I think though the idea of a pay off is the old way of thinking. “I am going to love this person like Christ, they are going to come church, come to know Christ, become an active member of the church, and thus end up supporting the church.” Being missional involves genuinely loving and investing in relationships and not necessarily receiving a pay off. I can think of a family in our community. The grandparents are raising the grandkids since the parents are in prison. They faithfully send the grandkids to church alone. I cultivated a relationship with the grandparents. I personally gave and helped the family. I funneled resources to the family. The church gave to this family. And yet the grandparents never stepped foot in the church even though they were very grateful for all we do. Being missional or on mission means being okay with that.


Joe

God on a mission is an idea I have connected with since my early days of church attendance. When God revealed Himself to me, the experience always felt personal. My understanding was that God wanted me to know Him. As time progressed, this personal experience became something of value to share with others. Every time I shared my story with others, there was always the potential of acceptance or rejection. Sharing what God had revealed in our lives through experience and study of Scriptures was always a part of what I felt God wanted from His people. What becomes more clear is the risk involved with sharing our story or loving a fellow human. The encouragement I receive from the blog is that we ought not to simply imitate God, but to continue to take risks because God, if He is on a mission, continues to take risks.


David A.

It has been a revelation for me to really explore what a God on the move looks like and the hope that this represents. I have had many fruitful conversations with people who have been thoroughly immersed in the church and yet were struggling with pain and trying to ask the question “what is God trying to teach me through the _____ (pain, loss of loved one, rejection, etc.) I have been experiencing?” There have been outright tears as I revealed what I thought was true of God: God isn’t trying to teach anyone anything with their pain; he doesn’t inflict it, he didn’t plan it for you, and he mourns as you mourn; and most of all he is going to go through it with you at your side. God is on the move and he wants to redeem this creation in its entirety. And he isn’t just going to wait passively for whatever the “end of the age” looks like to fix it all; he wants us to pray for and act on it now. This is God’s mission and the one that he has called us to undertake with him as co-laborers. There is hope for today and not just in some undefined future!


Jon Thompson

The ideal of God being a risk taker, therefore stating that God loving created humankind is a risk, truly resonated with me. Why? Love is not always reciprocated. Anyone with the capacity to love understands the risk that another person may not feel the same as they do. Also the “best” love comes as a sacrifice.

I heard a story about a pastor who once left pastoral ministry, due to his wife’s health. He knew that leaving pastoral ministry could mean the end of his season of preaching as a pastor. Yet, knowing the risk at hand, he left. His love for his wife was so great, he gave up his “rights” for the healing of his beloved spouse. When asked by another pastor why he would risk his “career” as a pastor. His responded this way, “Would you not do anything for your loved ones, if you really needed to?” What this pastor did was not anywhere close to the risk and amount of love God displayed for humankind. Yet we can experience a share of that while on this earth.


margaret tyler

“But I’ve come to think that the riskiest business is the love business. Love takes chances. All bets are off.”
It seems as often as weekly I sit across from someone who has decided to give up on love. It is too hard or too much work or too disappointing. Giving up seems most safe. I tend to agree that love is risky business. I also think giving up on love nets loneliness and drains life. Whether we like it or not, we are drawn to love. Dr. Mark Hayse says, we may not always remember who loved us or even know how to talk about love but we always know how it feels when love happens to us.


Don Smith

Reading the first sentence of this blog made me ask the question “can God be vulnerable?” This seems impractical when you think of the Creator of the universe, but as the post goes on I can see the risk God has taken when allowing His creation to have a will of its own. When thinking of the “mission dei” (one of those fun words) and God taking a chance on His creation joining this mission it is easier to see the risk involved. But thinking about this brings me to the point of looking at the Great Commandment, Loving God with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul and all my strength. If I take this seriously I am more able to take the risk of loving others as myself. God risked His love through His Son Jesus, if we are to enter in to the “imitatio dei” command then we must be willing to take some risks.
If the followers of God and Jesus, the “Church” are to become effective in His mission it will have to humble itself and put aside differences and allow this love, the love of God to be the driving factor in facing and changing our broken hurting world. Yes, as this blog suggests we must risk rejection just as God has done, but also as God has shown we must believe the risk is worth it in the lives that may be changed. Thanks for this blog Dr. Oord it has re-ignited some thoughts and passion of what God has called me.


Brad Thompson

Dr. Oord,

So appreciate your thoughts here. While I believe God is smart enough to take “wise risks”, I often fear I’m so dumb to live in foolish security. I’ll be honest, the thought of loving my neighbor seems daunting, time consuming, exhausting and embarrassing. It would require me to be uncomfortable, give sacrificially and live missionally. But that pales in comparison to what it might look like when I’m called to love those who hate me and are my enemy. What would I risk if I emptied myself and positioned myself at the feet of my enemy? I would risk more than comfort; I’d risk my family, my job and possibly my life. And somehow, I’m still captive to my own foolish security. I still find it difficult to risk loving like Christ. I think the moment we are willing to sacrifice everything, our whole selves, for one simple act of love we have taken a wise risk—often appearing as shear foolishness.

Grace & Peace,
Brad


Phil Michaels

The part of this post I find my interesting is the linking of love and dependency, and the juxtaposing of individuals and community in that context. I don’t know that individual has to equal independent and community has to equal dependent, or that an individual is necessarily less loving just because they aren’t in a dependent relationship (the obvious example here would be single adults who live on their own – neither married, in relationship, without children, and no longer dependent upon their parents – surely they have the capacity to, and exercise, love without having to be dependent on someone else).

I think I worry some about co-dependency as well. Sometimes what is billed as a call to love and forgive is actually a cry to maintain an unhealthy codependent relationship where it ought to be cut off. Love is a risk, and taking risks is certainly ‘imitatio dei’ – but enabling codependency or sacrificing emotionally healthy relationships for the sake of emotionally unhealthy ones is not, and I think there are some who do this with regularity, particularly in the church, resulting in unstable and unhealthy situations. I wouldn’t say that love has limits, but love does have certain lines it won’t cross because when it does, it becomes something less than real love. Sometimes love is tough. And I think love does avoid the ‘foolish risk’ – which is typically miscast as being a risk at all, and is just foolishness.


Cezi

Dr. Oord,

While I really like the concept of God taking a risk with us, I really struggle with the concept of God being dependent on us. Dependency suggests that one is not able to do something without the presence or the actions of the other.

On the other hand I was thinking about my relationship with my three months old son, who is completely dependent on me. My first thought was that I am not dependent on him, but at this point of my life I cannot image my life without him. In this sense I can understand the concept of dependency between God and humanity. God took a risk with us, and he cannot image His being without us.


Sarah Brubaker

I guess my question is what kind of dependence are we talking about? I agree that we have been and are limited in the idea that God doesn’t “need” us, but in what ways does God need us? When I think of God being dependent on something I think of Him being dependent on Himself as the Trinity. Maybe the word dependence has gotten a bad rep, like you said, that we think of this as in being weak and not in control. But at the same time, doesn’t dependence mean that we cannot do something without help? What is God not able to do without help? I’m genuinely interested because as I think of this question, there is not a lot that I can’t imagine God not being able to do. Or maybe the dependence that we talk about is God dependent on a specific person or peoples because He could just as easily use other peoples – I definitely agree with this. I am struggling to think through the idea of God being dependent.

I do totally agree that God is on the move and that He takes risks. I think this is one of the beautiful things about God – that He takes risks in creation, in love, in His plan of salvation, in allowing the church to be a vessel for the redemption of creation. This should prompt us to move a lot more than it actually does and it should encourage us and challenge us to take risks as well. I agree that for far too long the church (Christendom) has been sitting back in the safety zone and only willing to put int what they know they’ll get back out.


Michael O’Neill

Love is serving others and self-sacrificing and therefore requires humility and, as you’ve said, logically means dependence and risk. God risked and cost the life of his One and Only, even death on a cross! as Paul points out. I wonder what else God risks: His feelings (rejection), loss of control (or free will), for sure. What else? At any rate, his risk is my example.
Paul’s passage is a perfect one to pick to make your point because it not only speaks of Christ’s humility for us, but at the same time is held up as the example for our behavior. Dean Flemming points out (NBBC, Philippians) that Paul assumes the theological or philosophical aspects and therefore is focusing primarily on the ethical: because Christ did this, so should we. The Kenosis, the incarnation, is ethical. It is a huge task, and against my nature, but I’m thankful for his Spirit to strengthen me.


Barry

Love is a risky business. When we give love we are not guaranteed love in return. God has experienced this more than any human could ever experience, and yet He keeps on loving and pursuing relationship with humanity. I think we would be errant to suppose this seeking and loving is due to God’s dependance on humanity. God doesn’t need humanity, but He chooses to give love out of His true nature. The idea that God needs humanity to have someone to love supposes that humans are God’s only source of relationship, and comparing human love to the divine always falls short. There are things we just won’t fully understand until we meet our maker face to face, and understanding God’s love for humanity is one of them.


Chris Nikkel

I was involved in a discussion yesterday with a group of pastors about how it is easy to fall into the trap of pride in ministry. When numbers are up we perceive ourselves as doing good, and when numbers are down the opposite is true. Jesus is our example of kenosis, and if we are going to reflect his love this “self-emptying” must be evident in who we are as people. The risks that we need to take in ministry cannot be taken if we are functioning on the old paradigm. Jesus took the ultimate risk, and in his command to make disciples he is asking us to do the same.


Angela Lerena

It is a powerful thing to accept the love of God as a mutual love. Not only do we love him, but he loves us. It is easy to say that God is not dependent on us, and that would be correct. But he chooses to be in a co-dependent relationship. This is powerful to me because it helps me understand why community actually IS so important. I have been faithful to the need for community for over two years now (focused years on it), but this helps me figure out how God is completely involved in the community as well. He depends on us, we depend on him, and in turn we also depend on each other.


Tony Kayser

Can it be? Would God truly be willing to take risks? I will admit that this is a notion that thrills me. You see, I am a person that loves to take risks. Many of the risks that I have taken have truly been foolish. However, I believe that the greatest risk that I have ever taken was to allow myself to become part of God’s mission. It is one thing to just be an average church goer who just sits on the sideline believing that it is enough to get out of hell. It is another thing entirely to devote one’s life to a mission that they will never see completely fulfilled this side of eternity. Why do this? Maybe it is because I am just risky enough to believe that God does depend on me.


Cassy Wynn

I love the comparison with Narnia! It has been ingrained in so many of us that risk taking is a negative. We are scared to share or start things without knowing the end result. When we participate on mission with God we need to jump in with both feet! I also especially like how you talk about needing community. We were not created to “go in” alone. Great post!


Aneel Mall

Dr. Oorb,

Wonderful blog, I appreciated what you said, and it is easy now to look back after the death of Christ and to be able to see how much God gave up and the risks He took. Yet, while He was in the world this type of love was not understood or appreciated by those in His times. Even His disciples did not grasp it until after His death. To give a love like this requires so much of us and I will be honest I fear having to be this vulnerable and dependent upon people who will disappoint and take me for granted. But as I am reading it also dawned upon me that perhaps it is why without taking this type of risk I also won’t truly be free in loving God either.

Blessings,


Rich Evans

When I think of the word rejection it instantly conjures up images of pain, hurt and being abandon. I would even venture to say that the thought of anyone willing to be open to being rejected by others doesn’t seem logical. In fact it implies that it’s much safer to stay comfortable with the status quo, not willing to take a risk in fear of being rejected. After reading through the blog, I will say that a person’s willingness to take risk makes more sense if knowing that God wouldn’t ask us to do anymore than He was willing to do for us. I think you bring up the key word that sums up the importance of not only what it means to take risk, but also more importantly what it means to place others ahead of yourself, humility. Humility is such a tough concept or lifestyle to follow since it means that you will always place others ahead of yourself, including whatever God ask you to do. Being on mission, means being willing to go where God is already moving active around you. It means placing your dependence upon not only others, who will always hurt you in one way or the other, but placing trust in a God is will never hurt you. Once again, like you mentioned in your blog post, it all comes down to Love. Our love for others, and for God means that loving someone else means placing all your dependence upon the God who was willing to love first.

FOR HIS GLORY,
Rich


Rosanne McMath

Imitate Jesus – if you’ve seen the Son then you’ve seen the Father. The humanity in me agrees that God is risky. Jesus tells us to leave everything and follow Him. My entire being cries out that it’s too risky! I see no safety net to fall into when I fall. Then, I think about Jesus.

Jesus came to show us that following God and imitating Him is well worth the risk. Actually, I see safety rather than risk. I see safety in running after God; God is the only true safe place that I know. The risk is in the leaving everything behind but I ask myself, “Is it really a risk to follow Jesus? Wouldn’t the greatest risk be in not following?” What if God is waiting on me to take the risk in following Him?


Jim Cendrowski

A God that takes risks, since God’s nature is love is something worth imitating. The hard part comes in the “self-emptying” of oneself. With love, I feel this is essential “to make a thing go right” (see what I did there?). When each party is looking to give themselves to each other in selflessness, it’s hard to see the downside. God’s love warrants that response. In a way, we imitate God’s love back to God and then to others as we are commanded by Jesus to do.

The hard thing to wrap our minds around is the idea that this love takes freedom and giving that freedom to creatures is a huge risk, hence your comments about the product of this risky love is beauty and ugliness. Perhaps we don’t, as humans, celebrate the beauty this brings as often as we need.


Francis Mwansa

I want to appreciate the high level of theological articulation exhibited in Dr. Oord’s work as he talks about God as a risk taker. This is very intriguing subject and at the same time insightful as we seek to understand and imitate God. The sending of Jesus to save humanity is a risky business and yet that did not deter God to accomplish the mission He has to the world. I see here risk works hand in hand with love. It ‘s love which motivated God to risk His Son in order save humanity.

When I think about God as a risk taker, that, reminds me that doing mission is a risk business. I want to solute those (missionary) whom God laid a strong burden upon their hearts, who took upon themselves the sacrifice to take the gospel to other parts of the world. God is calling each one of us to take risks in order to accomplish His mission to the lost world.

Francis


Jennifer Glover

I really enjoyed reading this post. The idea that it takes risk to love is a beautiful concept. The idea that God chose to need us is also a beautiful concept. God trusts us. Maybe he trusts us because he trusts a greater truth, the truth that love never fails.  In some regards he trusted us when Jesus came down and was put at the mercy of humanity. We failed with that trust… but because he knew that even when we failed he could trust himself, he was willing and able to risk. His risk was not pain free… 

It makes me reflect on how we love each other.  Can we love knowing that even when we are hurt by others (as is inevitable) that our trust is backed up by a God who works all things out and loves so deeply…


Troy Teeter

One of my favorite verses is a call from God to respond. It’s a risky call and promise that is dependent on someone to respond.
“.. if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
It seems that God desires to pour out love, healing, forgiveness for where we have deviated from love, but is dependent on a response. In the same way, as we choose to love others we risk rejection. May the church be found ready to follow God’s lead and risk it all in love.


Joyce Tempel

Love is not only the riskiest business but I think love limits us, and because God is love, He limits Himself! Also, I think it is very important to understand that the logic of love requires relationship. Being missional is being an agent of love to those around us. “If we truly wish to imitate the One we consider worthy of worship, we too need to embrace the risk and dependence that love requires” – well said! How can a human being leave his selfishness and indifference and engage in genuine love without expecting anything in return? Only through “God’s love [that] has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (1 John 3:16-18).


Rob Birks

“God is on the move” Amen! I appreciate this post for several reasons, not the least of which being that it reminds me that God is not sedentary. He is active, moving, on mission. If that is true, and I believe it to be, I must be moving as well. I must be on mission as well.

Out of his great love for us, God took a risk (a “divine gamble”) in giving humankind free will. We are not pre-programmed to reciprocate his love. In light of this, those of us who have found God to be good (if not safe), should imitate his goodness by humbly risking pain or rejection or reputation or…
in order to love OTHERS like we’ve been loved.

That type of love is far from foolish – it’s faith-full.


Aneel Mall

I like the concept of God “taking risk” for my own emotional satisfaction as it implies that God values me and humanity to extraordinarily high manner. Yet risk in one sense also implies “vulnerability” and this may resonate with some as a God who has “weaknesses”. Could this be true? There are passages in the Bible that God’s heart feels joy or pain and if we have a God who suffers with us then one could reason that this is a vulnerability (although a self –imposed vulnerability) *wink* from the choice to express love to His creature. The vulnerability is indeed a calculated risk and I wonder if we look at this in through a calculated risk view then is God stacking the odds in His favor through the imparting His grace with the hope that we recognize our need for a relationship with Him?


Jon Wren

“If we truly wish to imitate the One we consider worthy of worship, we too need to embrace the risk and dependence that love requires.” This seems to be very true. Often, we enter into this covenant relationships without really being aware or even told of the radical dependence God has not only with us, but we have on Him. Its not about giving up your rock and roll music or your alcohol. Entering into relationship with the Father is about engaging with His Son and it comes at a high risk. We might need to give up more than we can handle, or think we can handle, or even be called out of where we are. We are taking a chance on getting everything wrong, for the sake of getting everything completely right.


Jonathan Gibson

The concept of freedom is an amazing thing to think about. Even more so in relation to God’s creation. To create free creatures, able to respond and depend on in kind is an activity of risk as you say. That freedom seems to directly relate to what you share about dependency. Love requires a response from both parties and infers dependence of the other to make love complete. To be honest, the idea that God is dependent upon His creation for anything at first seems to evoke a response from me. But that dependence seems to be a response to the freedom He creates. The risk is that freedom allows love and response to be a choice, not a coerced programming. Thanks for the insights, my heart and mind are challenged.


Kevin E. Bottjen

I have to admit, when I first read that “God needs us,” I buckled a bit. Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing God need anything from his rebellious creation? As I dwelt on the idea, however, I think I’m on the same page now. God created humanity for fellowship; he gave us free will. When Adam and Eve created the chasm between God and man with their sin, his creation could no longer be what he intended. To be what we were created for, God needs us to accept Christ’s sacrifice. Being perfect love, he cannot force us to love him (free will again,) or the love would not be real. He needs us to choose to love him; he desires fellowship with his creation. Does he need us to survive? No, absolutely not, but to fulfill his desire of companionship, yes, he needs us. Pretty amazing to realize that God needs us.


Roman Lyon

The concept of love being a risk is a beautiful thing. That is what makes love so powerful. Without there being choices in love then there wouldn’t be risks, and without there being risks then we probably wouldn’t have the ability to love so radically. As you mentioned, God clearly felt it was worth the risk to create beings that had the ability to choose because when those beings choose to love then it all becomes worth it! Even though we may not get it right all of the time God still felt that the risk was worth it because of how powerful that love is. It is risky business yes, but you also mentioned that an all-wise God would take calculated risks. Clearly this is a risk that He felt was worth it!


Travis Dotter

Dr. Oord, I love you have presented love as being a risky thing. I like how you presented God as being vulnerable. We do not often think of God as vulnerable. We usually think of Him as a strong, powerful, omnipotent being. While it is accurate to ascribe those attributes to Him, it would appear to me, especially after reading this article, that He has a much more balanced persona than we give Him credit for. Another thing I found interesting was the idea that, in some ways, God is dependent on us. I never thought of this before reading this article. If God was totally independent, He would have no need or want to have a loving relationship with us.


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