NOTEworthy: Children Go Where I Send Thee

Children Go Where I Send Thee – Spiritual

arr. Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory

Lately, I have been struck by the relationship of risk and faith.

In my own life, I have more than once used my faith as an excuse to meander down a road I call contentedness, rather than take the more challenging roads of risk.

I hear your rebuttals already, “But Andy, Contentedness is a virtue!” Right you are! I agree, contentedness, it should be said, is a beautiful, marvelous blessing. Moreover, it is a state of being that we are called to! Philippians 4:12, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Timothy 6:6-7. Clearly contentedness is a topic of interest!

The trouble is, I am pretty sure that what I told myself was contentedness wasn’t actually what the Bible is talking about. In truth, this “noble pursuit for contentedness” that I had convinced myself I was on was really just me taking a backseat on my own spiritual journey. It meant taking the safest possible paths, rather than following that sanctifying journey to which I knew I felt called.

It’s a common trap for people who grew up in the church to unknowingly convert any choice they want to make to the “Christianese” version of that position:

Are you afraid to pursue the path you were called to? Just say you are “searching for contentedness where you are now,” and continue to live out your faith in a passive, ineffectual manner.

Do people who have different lifestyles than you freak you out a little bit? Say that you “Love the Sinner, but hate the sin,” and continue to avoid those beloved children of God at all costs! (This has to be my least favorite Christianese idiom by far).

Does living out the outpouring generosity of Christ make you uncomfortable? Say you are trying to live a “lifestyle witness” by being generally nice to your friends and coworkers, rather than investing in them in a deeper spiritual manner.

If it’s not clear by now, more often than not, these “Christianese” translations are nothing more than an excuse. They allow us to continue to live exactly how we want to without facing the risk and potential discomfort of forward movement.

I think we see in the life of Jesus a life lived in that discomfort of risk. Every time He touched a leper, every time He ticked off a Pharisee or person of power, every time He hung out with a prostitute or tax collector – He was taking a risk. He risked His health, His safety, His reputation, and finally His life.

To be fair, I don’t think every one of us is called to risk that much. He was God after all. That’s a pretty high bar.

The Point is this: Taking that risk you feel called to is a matter of faith. Be wary of any Christianese that leads towards a passive faith. The life model we see in Christ is that of a faith lived out through action and risk.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:14-17

Andy Eaton
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church