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The Adventure of Love

August 8, 2023 | Rev. Vern Streeter

My instructor looked at me and said, “Now this time, when you get it overhead and steady, go ahead and begin running down the hill. Your feet will leave the ground but keep running. When you are airborne just hang in the harness and start turning left.” Wide eyed, I said, “Am I about to fly this thing? We’re going to do this? Am I ready?” I had only done a few sessions of groundwork and somehow he thought I was ready to fly the paraglider harnessed to my body. He nonchalantly confirmed it. I put the ram-air paraglider into the wind and overhead, I turned into the downward grade and the upward wind and started running…flying! It was indeed an “exciting and remarkable experience.”

Off the Couch and in the Wild!

Christianity, done the way Jesus described it and lived it, is an exciting and remarkable experience. Christianity lived after the model of the whole of Scripture is exciting and remarkable. How can people read the narratives of the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament and not conclude that this Jesus-following happens off the couch and in the wild?

The first-century city of Philippi was a wild place. A town known for a famous battle fought by celebrities 100 years earlier had become a military outpost with special pleasures. Paul stirred things up by freeing a girl from forced labor and demonic possession. That kind of meddling got Paul and Silas severely flogged and thrown in prison. But this was an adventure so they sang hymns and prayed loudly. The prison doors flung open, the chains fell off, the prisoners were freed and the jailer and his family got saved. An exciting and remarkable experience for all!

When Paul wrote to the new church in Philippi he urged them to embrace the adventure of the Way even though he was confined in chains. His letter opens personal, warm, and affectionate. And then he tells them how he has been praying for them.

Unconditional Love is Always an Adventure

I have always been mesmerized by Phil. 1:9-11, I think because of the connection of thoughts: Paul prays for love that abounds in knowledge and insight which will provide discernment for good decision-making which leads to righteousness, and all that for the glory of God. Embedded in that progression is an adventure for the taking.

Love—the unconditional kind—is always an adventure. Adventure, an activity with an uncertain outcome (a primary dynamic that makes it exciting or remarkable), includes risk. Risk means there is the possibility of harm or loss. Loving someone is risky. It might not be requited. They have a greater capacity to harm you. The object of your love might be lost through death or departure. You might be left with all the heavy lifting. Heck, you might get crucified! But this is the sacrificial nature for which Paul is praying. He prays this because he wants us to be wise.

The adventure of love leads to wisdom. Love is willing the best for someone, and the more we do it the better we get at it. The better we get at it the more knowledge and insight we have in them, in the Author of love, and in how life under Christ works best. Love shows a man or a woman how to put words into action and theories into practice. Both have unknown outcomes which adds to the excitement and—that’s right—the adventure.

Somewhat surprisingly, these adventures have sanctifying properties. Love and wisdom and good decisions produce purity and righteousness in us. Not every love goes well. Not every thought is wise. Not every discernment is accurate. I’ve made some bad decisions while paragliding. Nothing fatal (obviously) but sketchy to be sure. Each time it happens I grow and learn and fly more pure and with less “stumble” (another way to translate aproskopos/blameless). Turns out that loving successfully, or even stumblingly, produces wisdom and discernment and ultimately the righteousness that pleases God.

Apparently God likes adventure. We know this not just because He repeatedly puts His people in forced adventures, but because when we embark on the adventure of loving our neighbor and our enemies, and as we grow in wisdom and do what’s best, we have more of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us and God ultimately gets the “Yee-Haw!”

Right ‘Flying’ to the Glory of God

I was flying! I turned left, then a slow right, then lined up over the landing zone. A few feet from the early spring grass I gently pulled the controls down, flared the colorful wing over my head, and landed like a butterfly with sore feet. Instant euphoria. Instant, “I wanna’ do that again!” Instant, “Thank you Jesus!” I climbed the training hill, took another “sledder”, and did it over and over again until dark. But I wasn’t alone. You see I had a radio on my chest and the calm voice of my instructor guiding me through every facet of every flight. Between his words and my faith-in-action, I was gaining knowledge and insight and discernment so I could fly right…until the return of Christ. Adventure is fun, but it’s best when our right flying (read: living) leads to the glory and praise of God.

Rev. Vern Streeter

Lecturer in Adventure and Theology

Vern Streeter has been the senior pastor of Harvest Church in Billings, Montana for 23 years. Prior to planting Harvest, Vern was a […]

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