Living Risky image

Living Risky

This week the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new guidance warning that there is no safe or healthy way to get a tan from sunlight. This follows government advice a few weeks ago that there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking.

While both skin cancer caused from excessive sun and alcohol related health issues are serious, the regularity and tone with which such warnings are now being expressed does seem to wander into the ridiculous. It would be much simpler and more cost-effective to simply issue a blanket warning: “There is no safe way of being alive.”

This is true. Life is full of dangers, and death is inevitable. No matter what government health officials tell us, the death rate remains stubbornly high, at an unbudging 100%. It’s almost enough to make you wish you hadn’t been born – or at least feel the need of a stiff drink.

Taking risks is a necessary corollary of achieving worthwhile things: without risk the Atlantic would never have been crossed, Everest never climbed and the Poles never reached. Without risk taking none of the great social or technological advances of humanity would have occurred. Without taking a risk marriage would never be entered, or parenthood entertained. Human society and culture advances through risk taking.

But the human propensity to either overreact to risk or ignore it means it is easy to get risk wrong. Both extremes are dangerous: I’ve seen people take foolish risks and reap the consequences, but probably rather more people who haven’t risked enough, and have never achieved what they were capable of.

Reflecting on forty years of pastoral ministry my father observed,

I came into Christian ministry when evangelical churches were definitely on the back foot and you were thought to be doing well simply to conserve and maintain what you had in church life. If I had my time again I’d want to believe God for more growth, more staff and more money. Believers are prepared to give a lot of time, effort and money to those things they see have purpose and are worthwhile. Good leaders can be quite demanding, but get a response.

Asking for a response always feels risky, because people can say “No”, but probably most church leaders lean too much towards never going out in the sun than risking overexposure; and many Christians are far too cautious about their faith. There really is no safe way of being alive, so we may as well take a few more risks of faith.


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