Why Dangerous?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

M_kelley2

Christendom often seemed like a safe camp. I, for one, grew up safe within its walls. Campfire songs, flannel graphs and water colored storybooks fanned my beginner’s belief with sweeping and salvific stories. As I matured into Study Bibles and adult services I found a sturdy faith anchored by creeds, sacraments and plenty of sermons–so many of them about how to be good, stay above the fray of sin and keep out of trouble.

In retrospect, the catechism of the church taught me a protocol for a secure life. Right belief assured me of eternal protection from the fires of hell and right living kept me out of harm’s way until then. I learned how to follow rules, obey leaders, honor parents and avoid the appearance of evil (or wrong associations) at all costs.

Missionaries were the exception. “If you want to be dangerous–become a missionary, go to Africa.” I remember the harrowing stories of people arrested in a foreign country for smuggling in suitcases of Bibles, or worship services masquerading as birthday parties in places inhospitable to the Gospel message, I even heard rumors of martyrdom. Perilous living seemed only suited to evangelism efforts abroad or witnessing at home (if ridicule was considered hazardous).

But for the most part Christianity instructed me to be good–that Jesus wanted me to play it safe and remain innocent as a dove. Of coarse, as a white woman in a wealthy Southern California suburb, I had a certain amount of privilege at my back which made it easier to be good and safe, to live sanctified and unharmed.

The problem came when I, in my exuberant innocence, started devouring the Gospels and noticed how incendiary Jesus actually was in his own context. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I learned, from none other than Walter Brueggemann, that God was irascible and far from a domesticated or polite deity. The words of C.S. Lewis returned to me, “Is He safe? No, but He is good.”

Our holy stories tell of midwives who outsmarted Pharaoh’s death edict, an adolescent Miriam who summoned enough courage to approach an Egyptian princess and negotiate a wet-nurse arrangement for her baby brother, and that same Egyptian princess who risked the wrath of her father when she adopted that Hebrew boy. All those dangerous women were just from one liberation story!

Remember the prophet Nathaniel who looked King David in the eye and confronted his adulterous ways? Or Jeremiah who stood out in the streets declaring the destruction of Jerusalem because of the sins of the people? Or Isaiah who dared to dream of a city so inclusive that even eunuchs with their compromised sexuality and foreigners, often feared or marginalized, get in. These were dangerous propositions to peddle in the King’s palace or the Jerusalem street.

John the Baptist was a troublemaker who called out the wrongdoing of the political elite. Jesus kept suspicious company–Zealots, prostitutes, tax collectors and other riff-raff. He told provocative tales that agitated the religious and political leaders alike. He was called a blasphemer, a traitor and crucified as a terrorist. When Jesus told us to pick up our cross and follow him, he was inviting us into a dangerous way of living.

When we follow the words of the prophets and the ways of Jesus, we will find ourselves in the cross-hairs of one empire or another. Whether we’re subverting an empire bent on death and enslavement or calling out injustice and corruption in the palace, we are not making our safety a priority. We, like Jesus, take risks for the sake of love and God’s peaceable kingdom.

But sometimes the dangerous act seems small and slight as a paper cut–befriending a Muslim woman at the park because we are called to be inclusive, forgiving a debt because Jesus told us to break the cycle of indebtedness, looking in the mirror and smiling at our reflection because we know we are beloved despite what the glossy magazines tell us. When we choose to not be afraid, when we choose to remain tender-hearted and vulnerable we become a threat to a fear-soaked world of cynicism and callousness disregard. Being dangerous people isn’t about being more adventurous or heroic, but about being more honest and open to God’s transformation in us and our world.

These days I feel like God is asking me to put down my need for security, comfort and an easy life. These were never really on offer anyway. The biblical imperative is to lean into dangerous living, which might cost me something and surely disorient me from my materialistic ways. But that kind of living brings liberation to others and recalibrates entire neighborhoods, which ranks higher than my own creature comforts.

It continues to be a dangerous proposition to follow God into this world.

Exodus happened–and happens.
Exile happened–and happens.
Beheadings happened–and happen still.
Crucifixion happened–and happen still.

Yet we’re called into the thick of this life to live a different story. As Walter Brueggemann said, “God doesn’t need more cynical, complacent or indifferent people.”

I’d add this: God doesn’t need people already comfortable enough, safe enough or saved enough. God needs more dangerous people–and the Spirit has made us made dangerous practitioners.

Now it’s time to activate a protocol for a dangerous life–like yeast hidden in dough or a seed sown in the dark soil–and see what grows.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Kelley Nikondeha
I am a practical theologian shaped by education and experience, by rhetoric and theology, by the luminous beaches of the California coast and the vibrant rhythms of Burundian drummers. My own theology has been meted out in the context of a bi-cultural marriage and, as a result, a bi-continental family life. Among East African leaders, South African thinkers and Muslim friends I’ve come to learn more about the Good News and dangerous ways of Jesus. I am ecclesiastically promiscuous, a life-long lover of the stories of Scripture and the works of Walter Brueggemann. I must add that I’m a woman continually recalibrated by the liberation stories of Miriam and Moses, the intoxicating poetry of Isaiah and the provocative parables of Jesus. I’m insatiable when it comes to Sabbath and shalom, the rigors and release of jubilee and the radical inclusion of the New City – where there is room for every tongue, tribe and nation to gather at long last. I am a practical theologian hungry for the New City.
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

Latest posts by Kelley Nikondeha (see all)

Kelley Nikondeha
  • Pingback: » Why Dangerous?()

  • Bev Murrill

    I love that the biblical imperative causes me to lean into costly danger and disorients me from materialism. This is just what I have found since I began to follow Him. I love that you are telling that ‘conservative Christian’ is an oxymoron. I love that strength is found in weakness and that to be dangerous is about challenging the status quo, even if it doesn’t take us to another nation.

    I love your take on this, Kelley.

    • We are only beginning this dangerous conversation – and reorientation! ha! I think of myself as a ‘recovering materialist’ who is learning often to divest for the sake of the neighborhood! Love that we are in this together, Bev!

  • Sometimes, in our affluent land, it is counter-culture (and potentially “dangerous”) just to say and think and believe the words, “I have enough.” If I have enough already, then I am free to give, free from the need to accumulate more, free from the need to be MORE secure or MORE comfortable. I read recently that only 4% of evangelicals actually tithe, and their main reason for not giving is that they would have to adjust their current lifestyle in order to do so. Sounds like we all need a shot of dangerous in our morning coffee. Kelley, I appreciate your expression of the dangerous life: “when we choose to not be afraid . . .to remain tender-hearted and vulnerable.”

    • Katie Savage

      This comment. We recently moved to Santa Monica, CA… so affluent, so famous, so full of STUFF. I have been trying to believe “I have enough.” My pastor husband has postulated that much of the Christian witness in a place like this is believing and living “I have enough.” Thanks for articulating it so well. Here’s to open palms.

      • I grew up in So.Cal. – I know that kind of affluence. So yes, part of the danger is trusting you are enough, God is enough, there is enough abundance and not fall into scarcity. Walter Brueggemann wrote about this powerfully (and with great accessibility) in a small volume called Journey to the Common Good.

    • Yes! One of the most dangerous truths for me has been God’s abundance and my own tendency toward scarcity (not enough….). This recalibration in my own life has been/continues to be revolutionary!

  • Maggie H Johnson

    Thank you for this. You put into the words the emotion I hold in my heart.

    • You are so welcome, Maggie. Stay on the dangerous edge of things in the spirit of Jesus!

  • Pingback: { Why Dangerous? } | Kelley Nikondeha()

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    I love this Kelley: “Being dangerous people isn’t about being more adventurous or heroic, but about being more honest and open to God’s transformation in us and our world.”
    I appreciate how you’re enabling me to redefine being dangerous. It’s scary, but there is a sense of quiet excitement, as if my spirit is preparing for a tsunami of dangerous people rising up, and me choosing to become part of that wave.
    And like your yeast and seed analogy, I am unclear what that looks like, but I’m expectant and excited.
    Thank you for your wisdom.

    • Dangerous looks different on all of us (I think one of our SheLoves readers said as much yesterday). I think the more dangerous moves are more subtle – the kind of small moves the reorient our entire worldview and therefore how we engage in the world. It’s dangerous to be vulnerable, to trust God beyond our own means, to believe God’s heart for justice… the most dangerous moves in my own life have been invisible to others, but revolutionary for me and live out my own faith…

  • Matt Orth

    Thanks Kelley. My prayer life was floundering three years ago, feeling dry and vague at best. The only prayer that rose to my mind that “felt” right was, “Lord, make me dangerous.” I know now that one prayer has led me to where I am…having lost my connections/job in the church circles I’d moved in for 15 years and healing from a process of deconstruction, but hopeful in the midst of reconstruction. And lastly, I also feel “more honest and open to God’s transformation in us (me) and our world” Thanks again for writing your heart so well.

    • What a prayer, “Lord make me dangerous.” And the result sounds about right for God’s dangerous practitioners in the world – the cross/struggle that Jesus spoke of for His disciples set loose in the world to be transformed and bring liberation in His name. I pray reconstruction and resurrection are coming. I know resurrection always comes after death for those in Christ. Keep living dangerous, friend. You’re not alone.

  • That last line. Phew.
    Your words are potent and they excite me! Thank you, Kelley.

    • New season, new dangerous protocol! So glad we are in this together, friend.

  • I want to jump up and dance with a drum … yes, yes, yes!

    • Well, it wouldn’t be the first time! We’ll make the road as we walk it – together!

  • Naomi Williams

    Eesh reading this makes every hair on my body stand on end!

    ‘When we choose to not be afraid, when we choose to remain tender-hearted and vulnerable we become a threat to a fear-soaked world of cynicism and callousness disregard.’

    What a declaration! I love this and your heart so so much – thank you…

    • That might be the core of dangerous right there – our own vulnerability and refusal to live in/by fear. When we are no longer controlled by fear, we become dangerous to the systems around us…

  • I’m so into this theme. Kelley, thanks for cheering on the counterculture.

    • Just trying to stay in step with you, my friend! We are just getting started….

  • Helen Burns

    ‘God needs more dangerous people–and the Spirit has made us made dangerous practitioners’…Yes and amen. Thank you for this cry from your heart to ours today. xo

  • There is so much in this I just want to keep reading, and rereading.

    “Being dangerous people isn’t about being more adventurous or heroic, but about being more honest and open to God’s transformation in us and our world.”

    I thought my days of doing something for God were over when our marathon to overseas missions was yanked out from underneath us. And I sensed there was something about just making a home in the middle of it all and being open to whatever God threw at us, but it took your words to remind my heart of that truth.

    Thanks, Kelley, for your words.

  • “When we follow the words of the prophets and the ways of Jesus, we will find ourselves in the cross-hairs of one empire or another.” Scary hard words. But good.

  • Loving this series! I contributed my own thoughts here: https://speakbeloved.com/you-are-dangerous/

  • Kelly, I have kind of straddled the line of demarcation between boldness and scared straight. And then there were times where I felt the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost and did something really dangerous like speak the truth in love. That was only to leave the spiritual high and run back to my corner afraid of the repercussions of my actions. I’m not sure when I began this love hate relationship with fear; too scare to speak, act or be – but I know it wasn’t always. And as I read these dangerous blog posts I feel the lioness in me wanting to leap across the line of safety for good. Keep writing (I’m provoked) and thank you for speaking the truth.

  • Nicole T. Walters

    Amen! What a good word. Trying to learn how to live this out in our safe lives we have created, so difficult.

  • Sandy Hay

    ‘”Being dangerous people isn’t about being more adventurous or heroic, but about being more honest and open to God’s transformation in us and our world.” … “Now it’s time to activate a protocol for a dangerous life–like yeast hidden in dough or a seed sown in the dark soil–and see what grows.” You”re putting words to what’s been happening in my head. I’m watching God change my household that opens up time and space to implement an idea He has been growing for over a year.

  • Pingback: Life Changers 3/6/2015()

  • pastordt

    Scary, beautiful, necessary stuff, Kelley. Thank you.

  • Amelia

    Love this! I’m working on reclaiming the dangerous-ness of my life (having settled into comfortable suburban motherhood in the past few months) and think I will re-read this often as I continue my journey.

  • Wow. This is beautiful and inspiring. I can’t wait to read about other dangerous women, living their lives!

  • Pingback: March Loves | Learning to Love()