"Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life …" (Romans 16:3-4)
Do you ever study the final chapters of Paul's letter-the "throwaway" chapters for leave takings and non-theological afterthoughts, such as, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas" (2 Timothy 4:13)? Maybe they aren't so "non-theological" after all. Everything Paul writes gives some picture of the life of a godly man. And we are told to be imitators of godly men (Hebrews 13:7).
Today I mused on the thought that Prisca and Aquila "risked their necks" for Paul and, by extension, for Christ and the gospel. This is because the subject of "risk" has come up in my family lately in a rather heated way, and specifically the question of what is acceptable risk.
I thought it interesting that Paul tacitly approves of risk-taking in this casual greeting to a friend. That is to say, not all risk-even risk of life and limb-is sinful and irresponsible. There is a kind of risk that is sinful, to be sure. But there is a kind that is not only acceptable but also commendable. Another way of putting it is that self-preservation of one's body (even though our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit) is not the highest good.
It seems funny to even make this point, since Jesus' handing over his own life for execution is the central fact of Christian dogma. And yet you and I do pause before doing costly things for Christ, especially where other family members are involved.
I remember Francis Schaeffer saying that it's OK to own a Persian rug, as long as you don't mind someone puking on it. In my book he had authority to say that, since groups of vagabond hippies were over for dinner on a regular basis.
My brother Marc is a missionary, and as I write he is arriving in Haiti for a teaching tour. He will have landed on an iffy runway at Port-au-Prince, and been escorted over pockmarked roads to a remote shack, and will be courting malaria every step of the way. He has a wife and kids. How much risk is acceptable risk for the gospel? Every man must decide for himself.
I guess we can ask "the souls of those who ha[ve] been slain for the word of God" and who are presently waiting for the full number of their fellow martyrs to arrive before Christ Jesus brings about the end of things (Revelation 6:9). They might have a decided opinion on the question of risking your neck.