Radical: Chapter 8, Living When Dying Is Gain

We’re studying David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream chapter by chapter.

Platt describes a medical mission trip taken by members of his church. A couple of volunteers were treating HIV patients when they accidentally stuck themselves with needles — risking possible infection.

“We’re glad it happened to us and no one else,” they both said. “And if these clinics were used by God to lead someone to Christ, then it was all worth it.” (p. 163)

Oh, wow.

We say things such as, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” We think, If it’s dangerous, God must not be in it. If it’s risky, if it’s unsafe, if it’s costly, it must not be God’s will. But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something is God’s will?  What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us? What if if the center of God’s will is in reality the most unsafe place for us to be? (pp. 164-165; emphasis in original)

Platt frankly presents some horrific stories of Christian suffering and persecution, but he presents these stories in light of the good that ultimately comes from suffering and persecution — often long after the martyrs have died.

The reason we know that we will be betrayed, hated, and persecuted is because Jesus himself was betrayed, hated, and persecuted. The more our lives are conformed to his, the more we will receive what he received in this world. (p. 166)

You know, many of us gladly send our sons and daughters off to serve in the military. We know that their lives are at risk in that career, and we pray for them daily. But we feel that the cause is good, and so we honor them as heroes. We’re proud of their service to their country. Even when they volunteer to fight in a shooting war, we toughen up, kiss them goodbye, and we let them go. Indeed, there are countless military families where children are raised to serve in military careers.

If a child of ours decided to be a missionary in Afghanistan rather than a soldier, how would we react? Would we see their service as futile or noble, as foolhardy or courageous? Are there any families who raise their children for missionary service?

And why do we feel so much more confident in the holiness of a war declared by our President and Congress than a war declared by the God of the universe? Why fear death in the service of God more than death in the service of our country? Why is one kind of death honored so much more than the other?

Am I being unfair? Am I selling the church short? I don’t know. Count the soldiers in Afghanistan and count the missionaries. All are volunteers. Why are there so many more military volunteers and so few missionary volunteers?



About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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7 Responses to Radical: Chapter 8, Living When Dying Is Gain

  1. Tim Archer says:

    When I was in college, three of my friends decided to do a two-year missionary apprenticeship. Two of them faced great opposition from their parents; one had supportive parents.

    The irony: the supportive parents weren’t Christians.

    Sadly, many of my friends who were interested in missions found that their Christian parents didn’t approve of their choice.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. ao says:

    Great chapter summary (Jay) and great comment (Tim). This post touches on the fact that many of us have let the American Dream define what “safe” and “dangerous” mean. We raise our kids with the idea that a successful life in Jesus is one in which you raise them to be nice kids who go to a nice school to get a nice job and a nice spouse and move into a nice house in a nice neighborhood where they can have nice kids of their own who go to a nice school and repeat the cycle for generations. What a nice family.

    A friend sent me an excerpt from a sermon by Tony Campolo that I think is a great related point:
    “Whenever we recruit young people to work in places like Camden, NJ, their mothers call me on the telephone and ask, ‘Is it safe?’ (I am sending these kids into the murder capital of the world & they want to know if it is safe!). But I am here to tell you this: it is not safe to live in that wealthy suburban community where your life revolves around shopping centers. The Bible says this, ‘More dangerous than the one who will destroy the body is the one who will destroy the soul.’ I am worried about a generation of young people who are losing their souls through a consumeristic culture. They think that if they just get enough money to buy the stuff they want they will be gratified. Please note, this is not a tirade against materialism as much as it is about the deadness of the soul.”

  3. Alabama John says:

    Most parents would rather send their child to a dangerous place which threatens their life than to a place where they will be discussing religion. Different beliefs of Christian denominations, or even if those beliefs are all from the various Churches of Christ.
    It seems they had rather have them lose their life than their stated beliefs of the local congregation.
    Invite all the local congregations to something appropriate and see and hear the reaction.
    We had better wake up!

  4. “Am I being unfair? Am I selling the church short?”

    Probably yes to both questions.

    One factor present in this situation is familiarity and comfort. People are generally more comfortable with something that is familiar. Military service is familiar to Americans and American Christians. We see movies, television, books, etc. about military service. They are everywhere. We know people who are and have been in the military.

    We see and read little about Missionary service. We don’t personally know many missionaries as they are, after all, living thousands of miles away. Missionary service is unfamiliar; hence, it is uncomfortable.

  5. ao says:


    Interesting thought. If you’re right, I still don’t see how Jay is being unfair or selling the church short. All you’ve done is point out another (probably correct) reason to support the point Jay was making.

    We still have the problem: American Christians are more comfortable and familiar with dying for America than they are with dying for Christ.

  6. Excellent post – and comments, too.

    I have asked several people at different times over the past decade, “What would have happened if, instead of sending the military into Afghanistan, we had sent 1,000 missionaries?” Usually the reply is that they would have been killed. My follow-up is, “Then what if for every one killed, we sent two more?” No one wants to think in those terms.

    Back in the 1970’s, I attended a lectureship at Great Lakes Christian College in Beamsville, Ontario. One of the speakers was a Texan who had moved to Canada to preach. He had taken Canadian citizenship. In his lecture, he told of how his grandmother reacted when he told he he was going to Canada: “Why are you doing this to us?”

    I contrast that with the reaction of my mother when I called to let her know I had decided to go to New Zealand in the early 60’s: She cried – for joy.

  7. Another anecdote from my past. In 1967 as I was preparing to return to New Zealand for my second tour there, I spent a little time with my supporting congregation. One week of that time was at Summer camp. At the camp were a couple of teen junior counselors who were going into their senior year of high school.

    I talked with them about a program of the church that was my initial sponsor similar to the AIM program at Sunset now. This is a sort of gospel peace corps for high school graduates where they receive 6 months training and then intern with an established missionary for a year and a half. These two boys were excited about this.

    A local preacher and their parents, however, convinced them, “If you do that, you will never go to college.”

    Actually, young people who do that do much better in college than others. They gain in maturity and experience in a controlled environment. They have a purpose in furthering their education that is greater than merely having a great time with little to no responsibility!

    I would like to know what happened to the boys, but I cannot remember their names. I do remember the fairly well known name of the preacher involved – but I will not share it (at least not publicly).

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