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Responsible Irresponsibility

[Jesus said,] “Follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

I recently attended a women’s weekend at a Young Life camp in Antelope, Oregon, and it was wonderful. I highly recommend it, with beautiful weather and friendships, good conversations, food, teaching, seminars, activities, and alone time. One thing that will stay with me was Terri’s teaching in the Campaigners time (or Bible study) on responsible irresponsibility.

Many people practice irresponsible responsibility – where they look responsible to others in saying no to an opportunity because it’s too risky. Terri (in Young Life leadership) shared the passage in Luke 9 (also known in some versions as “The Cost of Following Jesus”) where Jesus told certain people to “follow me,” and each one had an excuse:

On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” (Luke 9:57-62, The Message)

We do this today when Jesus calls us to do something, and we say that we are too busy, or we are raising kids, or we don’t have enough money, or we need more schooling. We don’t want to step out and take a risk. It’s sometimes painful and uncomfortable.

The other end of the spectrum is responsible irresponsibility – where following Jesus’ call seems like folly and is irresponsible, but is actually Kingdom living. The examples Terri gave were Noah – a farmer who builds an ark; David – a shepherd who fights a giant; Saul – a murderer and Jewish leader who surrenders to Jesus, has his name changed to Paul, and writes half of the New Testament. I can think of others in the Bible, even those who have excuses when God calls them, but who ultimately choose good: Jeremiah, who thinks he’s too young; Moses, who thinks he cannot be a public speaker; Jonah, who doesn’t want to deliver God’s message because he thinks God will be too merciful to ungodly people.

I’m always interested in studying, and hopefully doing, Kingdom living. Kingdom living is counter-cultural, it’s doing the opposite of what the circumstances might seem to dictate, it’s forgiving when being hurt, it’s loving the “unlovable,” it’s overcoming evil with good, it’s being willing to change. It’s getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s the opposite of a prosperity gospel; there is a cost to following Jesus. Just in the passage above, Jesus says that the Kingdom life is not easy, it might involve leaving our family of origin, it tells us to seize the day. Procrastination and excuses are not the best way.

Many times in my life I have procrastinated and made excuses, and I’m not glad for those, but hope I continue to learn from the ways I’ve missed the mark. But there have been other times where we’ve experienced responsible irresponsibility, where we heard God’s call and went for it, no matter how risky it seemed. When Doug felt called to leave the law for full-time ministry (and I joined him in that), others told us we should wait until the kids graduated high school, that it was too risky to leave a good salary for one that was much less, and one that needed to be support-raised. Indeed, some people didn’t understand support-raising, and said we should wait until we had more money saved before leaving the law job. When we left Southern California for Doug to be pastor at Creekside, people thought it was risky, and even irresponsible – our younger daughter had another year left in high school, so, they thought, that meant it wasn’t God’s timing to move. But God has blessed this time (and our youngest daughter is doing just fine).

Try following God’s call even when it might seem risky. Pray about it, talk to others in your spiritual community who are praying for you, but step out. It could be something smaller, like helping a homeless person or talking with someone at work; it could be something bigger, like leaving everything to become a missionary or becoming involved in a local ministry to impact the world. Only God knows what beautiful things are in store for you as you listen and act for the Kingdom. What is God calling you to do?

Kelly can be reached via email.

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