When you cannot avoid risk


by Michael E. Brooks

“Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV).

“But you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Timothy 6:11).

On the road from Katmandu, Nepal to Syafru Bensi there is a place about 10 kilometers south of Dunche where summer monsoon rains frequently cause landslides, destroying the road for a period of months until it can be rebuilt.

Travelers going to the mountain towns along the road must negotiate that section on foot and look for other transportation on the upper side. Even when the road is in service, caution is recommended as another incident could occur with little or no warning.

Life is filled with danger and risk. Prudent people avoid and eliminate all of the unnecessary risks they possibly can. Yet not all can be foreseen, and some activities are essential, even if known dangers are present.

My mother-in-law was terrified of flying and refused to consider it, until one of her daughters needed her immediately in a distant state. The unthinkable quickly became necessary.

The New Testament contains abundant warnings against evil and temptation. Immorality, greed, harmful desires and negative emotions are to be fled from or avoided with great effort. But this is not always possible.

Sometimes the Christian finds it necessary to enter relationships or activities that challenge his purity. It may be that someone else is at risk and the mature disciple must reach out to rescue. It may be that circumstances occur suddenly which inadvertently expose one to great temptation. The question then becomes one of minimizing the danger.

When we are in a vulnerable situation, what steps can be taken to protect us?

First, we must always be aware and watchful. The knowledge that a landslide often occurs in a certain area prompts us to keep our eyes open for warning signs and always look out for a route of escape. A few seconds warning may make all the difference.

Secondly, choose the safest possible means of negotiating the dangerous portion. On one trip across the avalanche area while the new road was still being stabilized, the bus driver had all the passengers get out and walk while he drove the empty (much lighter) bus across the uncertain spot. This simple precaution helped secure both riders and vehicle.

When we are faced with potential temptation there are usually ways in which its appeal may be minimized. This may be as simple as insuring the presence of a strong Christian companion, with whom one feels much less pressure to do wrong (this principle contributes greatly to the success of the Alcoholics Anonymous program).

Finally, when danger cannot be avoided, one should reduce the time of exposure to the bare minimum. The place to plan a picnic lunch is not under the shadow of a precariously balanced boulder. If one must walk that path, do so quickly. Do not linger, increasing the likelihood of disaster.

This was clearly the reason for the Angels’ injunction to Lot’s family:

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed” (Genesis 19:17).

Disaster was certain for Sodom and Gomorrah; Lot’s only hope for survival was to escape their vicinity quickly.

Danger is a permanent element of life. Much of it may be avoided with proper awareness and caution. But some risk is inescapable. Let us be aware and prepared for it; let us act wisely while exposed; and let us escape its influence as quickly as possible.

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