Though He Slay Me…

With the coming of Covid came a new dilemma for Christians in the Western world: risk. How do I factor risk into my faith? Common sense says risk is best approached with a cost/benefit analysis. Businesses do this all the time. The insurance industry is built on such. When it comes to looking for Biblical wisdom on risk, it seems strangely silent. Wisdom literature has much to say about the dangers of money and lust, and the importance of hard work and virtue, but little about assessing risk to your life. 

That doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t speak to risk. It just doesn’t speak to it in the way our “common sense” does. When it comes to risk for the sake of living your faith, risk is not spoken of as a thing to be avoided. Instead, it is often commended. For example the apostle Paul writes, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life…” (Ro 16:3-4) About Onesimus Paul writes, “honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” (Philippians 2:29–30) These shouldn’t be a surprise to us either as we learn to look at life through a Biblical lens. After all, Paul writes to Timothy, “fan into flame the gift of God…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Ti 1:6-7) 

While it is true that some are at greater risk than others, it also true that God is in control. He is in just as much control for the one at high risk as he is for the one at low risk. That means there is no better place to be than in the will of God, regardless of the level of risk. Peter writes,

do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you… Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 

1 Peter 4:12–19

One Christian service that people have backed away from for fear of risk has been corporate worship. While I understand the desire to avoid unnecessary risk, corporate worship is hardly unnecessary. It is our calling and privilege. Do you believe that God is able to protect you as you worship? In the Heidelberg catechism we are asked each Sunday, “what is your only comfort in life and in death?” to which we respond, 

That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation…

Heidelberg catechism question 1

Not only does this point out the risk that Jesus took for my sake but the reward of that risk (payment for my sins, freedom from the tyranny of the devil and the assurance of eternal life). And it reminds me that he watches over me “in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.” We have a component to consider in our risk evaluation that the world does not have. We have the oversight of a God who is active in our lives. Too often we live as though He isn’t really involved. 

Could God’s will include our suffering and even death? Yes, it could. The biblical writers often tell us to expect suffering when we live our faith. This means that making it our mission to avoid suffering, as culture says to do, often puts us on a path that runs contrary to the will of God. If we suffer while living our faith, it is God who is ultimately behind it. Job understood this all too well when he said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…” (Job 13:15) 

And yet, Job’s confidence in God’s goodness pressed him to conclude that God would not allow that suffering and death to be the end. In the next chapter Job says,

If a man dies, shall he live again? 
All the days of my service I would wait, 
till my renewal should come. 

You would call, and I would answer you; 
you would long for the work of your hands. 

Job 14:14–15

Job knew that God was ultimately in control of his suffering and was willing to live his faith even if it meant death. But he also knew that it was within God’s power to call him back from the dead. His hope went beyond the risks and rewards of this life.

Some have said, “I’ll come back to worship but first let me…” In the eyes of the world this is the application of risk assessment. It would appear the responsible thing to do. But it also reminds me of Jesus words in Luke 9 when the one who desired to follow Jesus wherever he would go said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus’ reply runs contrary to cultural common sense: “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” When another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” These are startling words. The point isn’t that we should ignore risks (or other things of importance). The point is that following Jesus takes priority, regardless of the risk or the cost. In fact, it costs everything to follow Jesus. 

But it is undoubtedly worth it. This is the point of these parables of the kingdom: 

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. 

Matthew 13:44–46

So, let us live our faith in the face of uncertainty and the face of risk. God is able to protect us. If for some reason he chooses not to protect us from the present risk, He will one day call us back from the grave. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39, boldness mine