This semester I’m taking a class in the theology of the early church.
I love it.
The professor’s great and we spend most of our time reading the writings of the early church fathers. Reading people like Clement, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr gives you a fascinating, or at least fascinating to me, look at what the rest of the early church (by which I mean everything not mentioned in the New Testament) was thinking about and dealing with.
When reading these great works, one thing becomes very clear, very quickly.
For the early church fathers (and mothers), the Christian faith was not something to be taken lightly.
For everyone deciding to follow Jesus at the dawn of the church, doing so was a dangerous, life threatening decision. For many, but not all, their decision to “take up their cross” meant, like the Jesus they were claiming to emulate, it would cost them their lives.
Countless Christians were drug to their death at the hands of lions, fire, and gladiators in the arena.
Today, countless Christians are drug off to yet another conference, concert, or fellowship opportunity.
There’s nothing wrong with those things. They can be really enriching moments, but for too many of us, these sorts of things exhaust what it means for us to be a disciples of Jesus, which is why I like Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous so much.
While so many books that line the shelves of Christian bookstores today are full of reciepes for how to improve our lives, Ed and Derek are bold enough to remind us that if anything, becoming a Christian will, or at least should, make your life that much more difficult.
That is, if it’s a Christianity molded after the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Following in the path blazed by my great theological hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hazardous once again reminds us as a church that the grace we have been given is not cheap. It cost Jesus everything to give it us and “what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”
Grounding their argument deeply in scripture in every chapter, Hazardous makes it clear to discipleship goes way beyond regular church attendence. It reaches into ever corner of our lives, from how we treat our families, to how we conduct ourselves in public, and everything in between.
Ed and Derek, though, don’t simply critique the state of the church. They offer their readers a pragmatic paradigm for how to escape what they call a “safe faith”. It’s a paradigm that takes the extra step of engaging the reader with questions and challenges at the end of each chapter, designed to help the reader take what their reading and immediately put it into practice.
I like that at lot, but what really stood out to me in this book, and which I think sums up what their saying brilliantly is a recollection Ed had about a moment he had while he and his wife made some pretty dramatic and potentially hazardous changes in their life in order to follow the call they sensed God had placed upon them.
One night while in prayer, Ed said he felt God speak to him. God asked him a question that night which I think, not only sums up the message of Hazardous, it also perfectly sums up the heart of the Christian faith.
As Ed recalls, God asked him point blank, “Do you want Me, or do you just want Me to solve your problems?”
What a beautifully haunting question for all of us.
Make no mistake, if you choose to read this book, you’re probably in for a guy check, but it’s a gut check all of us need if we’re going to be serious about being disciples of Jesus.
Grace and peace,