Column: Being a Christian is a risky business

Mark my words
Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

At the time of this writing, the Powerball jackpot stands at $1.5 billion. People are flocking to purchase tickets, even though the odds of winning the whole thing are 1 in 292,201,338.

Just for fun, some folks compiled a list of things that have better odds of happening to you than winning the Powerball:

  • Dying from a lightning strike (1 in 3 million)
  • Dying of a bee sting (1 in 6.1 million)
  • Becoming president of the United States (1 in 10 million)
  • Being killed by a vending machine (1 in 112 million)
  • Hitting a hole in one on consecutive par-3 holes (1 in 156 million)

So, do you suppose that any of the above statistics matter to most folks? Nah. In fact, some people are standing in line for over two hours to buy a ticket. It seems like the dream of “getting rich quick” (and effortlessly) will trump logic any day of the week.

Getting something the easy way certainly isn’t limited to lottery players. These past few weeks, I’ve seen a proliferation of weight-loss commercials, proclaiming that eating this or using that particular piece of exercise equipment will magically melt off the pounds. You have to look carefully, however, to see the disclaimer on the screen: Results not typical.

Even in the sports world, baseball teams used the winter meetings to hand out massive contracts, hoping to snag a World Series trophy with the simple addition of this or that player. (It’s amusing to note that the 2015 payrolls of the Royals and the Mets combined was less than that of the Yankees, who didn’t make it far in the playoffs.)

In a nutshell, there really isn’t an easy way to becoming financially secure, physically fit or winning a World Series championship. It takes hard work, commitment, sacrifice and a willingness to take risks.

A cousin recently sent me this beautiful reflection by Janet Rand, entitled “Risks”:

“To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk being called sentimental.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement.

To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self.

To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naïve.

To love is to risk not being loved in return,

To live is to risk dying,

To hope is to risk despair,

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, becomes nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love.

Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free.”

Rand’s insights are powerful and spot on. Risk is an essential part of our spiritual lives as well. There’s no easy way to become holy. Being a follower of Jesus involves the greatest risk of all: to stake our very life on his words, to trust wholeheartedly in his promises.

It’s a risk to live these sayings of Jesus: “Deny yourself, take up your cross”; “Love your enemies”; “Stop judging”; “Do not be afraid”; “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”; “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”; “Do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear”; “Strive to enter through the narrow gate”; and “Sell what you have and give to the poor.”

This lifestyle is not for the fainthearted, the careful, the cautious. Being a Christian is demanding and risky. But the good news is we don’t walk this path alone. Jesus has gone before us and invites us to take the risk of following him in a life that is challenging, yet more fulfilling and surprising than we can imagine.

One final note: Yes, I’m risking a few bucks on Powerball tickets. I’m not silly enough, though, to believe I’ll win the billion. I’ll be very satisfied with my cool $1 million prize. (After all, the odds there are clearly in my favor: 1 in 11,688,053.)

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