Reconciling Theology of Risk, Pandemic, and the Sanctity of Life

Of all the challenges of this pandemic, I believe this season has also provided Christians with opportunities to grow in their faith and obedience to the Lord’s call on their lives; especially when it comes to considering (or revisiting) their Theology of Risk (ToR). After personally becoming infected and very sick with COVID-19 (that’s a story in itself), the Lord convicted me on my own perspective of ToR and the need to count the cost of personal obedience in light this pandemic.

Here are four thoughts on theology or risk, the sanctity of life, and our willingness to risk of the sake of the Gospel:

First, a comprehensive ToR demands a foundational belief in the sanctity of life. A ToR demands that life be precious and worthy of protecting and keeping safe. Thus to willingly risk, and even lay down one’s life to minister to others, is indeed a great sacrifice of love and act of compassion (John 15:13).

Second, if a ToR demands the sanctity of life, then holding to a ToR as a Christian means admitting that our personal lives are worth risking in order to protect and minister to others in Jesus’ Name. The spirit of sacrifice found in Revelation 12:11 is on full display for Christians in this season. In that spirit of sacrifice, may we exhibit a willingness to risk and overcome “because of the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and a willingness to love not our own lives even when faced with death.” This is true not only when sharing the Gospel directly, but even when ministering to the sick and dying in Jesus’ name.

Third, the sanctity of life extends through ALL phases of life. Often “sanctity of life” is applied to the child in the womb (and righty so) but it does not end there. One who holds to a comprehensive ToR should also agree that the sanctity of life extends to every stage of life (“from the womb to the tomb” as they say). Each phase of life is precious to God and, thus, worthy of risk on our part to both protect, comfort, and even shepherd into eternity (Psalm 139:13-4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, etc.).

Allowing ourselves to be isolated from those who are sick and dying (and thus letting them suffer and die alone) out of fear of infection should be opposed as we demonstrate to the world the heart of Proverbs 24:11 as we “rescue those who are being taken away to death” and “hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” We do this as we both minister to the suffering in Jesus’ name AND share the Gospel with those who, in their suffering, would listen and receive the Gospel unto eternal life.

Fourth, our ToR compels us to make a decision AND take action. I regularly teach ToR to missionaries and Gospel workers headed to the foreign field. But ToR not only applies to Christians going “over there;” it also applies to each of us right here at home. This pandemic has brought Christians to a place where we must consider whether risking infection from a disease that could harm or kill us in order to minister in Jesus’ name is worth the risk.

Throughout history, Christians have been faced with tough decisions to risk their lives for Christ. This includes facing death for speaking the name of Jesus (Stephen in the Book of Acts comes to mind here) but that’s not all. For centuries, Christians have also made hard decisions on whether to face death by entering plague-ridden cities and minister in Jesus’ Name. From Roman times, to the Dark Ages, to Christian missionaries today risking their lives in Ebola camps in Africa, Christians have been compelled to count the cost as they accepted the responsibility to minister in dangerous places–and that decision to risk has projected a powerful witness for Jesus through their personal risks for others. But these decisions are not just “over there” decisions; they are “right here” decisions too.

As Christians, we each have a responsibility and duty to protect physical life as we share about eternal life. Likewise, each of us must decide what risks we are willing to take in our obedience to God’s call on our lives. In this season of pandemic, it is my prayer that Christians would count the cost of obedience as they both develop and reflect upon their own personal theology of risk. Having become quite sick myself, I have had time to consider both the challenges and ramifications of Luke 14:28 as well as the other scripture verses I have quoted here.

It is my prayer that Christians would not be confused about their choices to risk and be obedient to God’s call; whether it is to minister during a pandemic, to stand up for Christ at their jobs, or to live for Christ on mission in the nations. If nothing else, may we each “choose this day Whom we will serve!”

-Scott Brawner

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