Our fourth Christian Value is “Living Adventurously”. You may not consider Christopher McCandless to be a very good role model for us; he died of starvation in a remote part of Alaska just short of 30 years old having achieved little but adventure. But we might find some of his thoughts to be helpful. For instance:
So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit.
Mark 7:31 records the moment when Jesus, that itinerant Jewish preacher from small-town Nazareth, realized that his message of salvation was equally applicable to people who were not of his faith group. He set off to the Decapolis, ten towns of Gentiles. How would he be received there? He must have had some doubts. Later, as he prepared his disciples for their mission journey, he sent them with a warning that some whole villages would throw them out. Jesus certainly had personal experience of this, even from his home town. It was an adventure.
Or consider the woman with the alabaster vase of perfume (Luke 7:37) who risked social approbation for showing her love publicly and ostentatiously with the hope of…What?
Or, the tentmaker, Paul, travelling round the Mediterranean lands (now that was a real travel adventure) ending up in prison and eventually on death row all for the reward of spreading his life-changing experience gained on the road to Damascus. There is no record of Paul regretting that the risks caught up with him.
Or think of the risks that the Good Samaritan took in bandit country.
An adventure must offer some promise of reward (a promise not always delivered) in exchange for some uncertainty of risk. The colour supplements are full of adverts for “adventures” which are nothing of the sort because all the risk has been ironed out: guaranteed reward, zero risk. In Jesus’ day, even the next town was a risk.
Children leaving home abruptly, after the last of many unresolved arguments with parents, often fetch up in a strange city railway or bus station where sympathetic strangers wait to take them in; sadly, many of these sympathetic strangers turn out to be pimps. Risk and adventure are not always to be found far away. Risk and reward are not always equally likely.
The graduate student who departs round the world on a gap year with plentiful funds and a credit card tied to Dad’s account may experience less adventure than someone trying to form a residents’ committee on a run-down estate, or than a whistle-blower trying to expose injustice in the workplace.
Adventure is still to be had in this Health and Safety World. Adventures can have useful or self-centred aims. Risks taken by adventurous Christians should really hold out the promise of improving life for the poor and marginalised. After all, that is what Jesus did.
Adventures include marriage, having children, adoption, taking any public office, making new friends, seeking injustices to right; in all of these, we hope for both service opportunities and personal reward. Indeed if there is no hope of personal reward, pleasure, or satisfaction, everyone around may suffer when we take risks of pure unrewarding altruism.
So, let’s hear it for adventure. Let’s prepare to be excited by life. Let’s never settle for boring or just surviving at the expense of adventure. Jesus didn’t.