Defining Reckless Abandon
We’ve been talking about the words “reckless abandon” for several months now, but we’ve never taken the time to nail down their exact definition. In preparation for this month’s series, I’d like for us to do that now. Let’s dig into the words “reckless abandon” for a brief moment here. Dictionary.com defines the words as follows:
Reckless: utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action
In total, the words “reckless abandon” can be defined as: to yield oneself without restraint or moderation, regardless of the consequences that will follow such an action. When we talk about reckless abandon, we’re talking about a complete yielding of all of our talents, our time, and our desires to our King. Jesus doesn’t want us to surrender some of our heart’s desires – he demands all of it. It is impossible to be a true follower of Christ and avoid this act of reckless abandon. Let’s take a look at chapter 9 of the book of Luke, verses 23-26.
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26 NIV; author’s emphasis added)
There is a trend present in the church today to cushion our words in such a way as to make our message more appealing. Jesus never employed such a tactic in his personal ministry. There isn’t a single time recorded in the entire Bible where he compromised the depth or quality of his teaching in order to attract a greater crowd of followers. Why? Numerical growth wasn’t his priority. Jesus sought to create true disciples. He didn’t care if his message made him popular, and neither can we if we desire to follow after him with a heart of reckless abandon. This brings us to our first point.
A Life of Reckless Abandon Isn’t Popular
At one point in his ministry, Jesus had thousands of people “following” him. Few of those people, however, were true disciples of Christ. The lifestyle Jesus required from his disciples wasn’t popular. It wasn’t fun. While there were many people interested in following Christ, there were few who were still willing to follow him once they had found out the cost. There weren’t people lining up to deny themselves two thousand years ago, and there aren’t people lining up to deny themselves today. A life of reckless abandon isn’t popular, and it isn’t easy. Anyone that hopes to pursue such a lifestyle must possess several qualities, three of which I would like to highlight in this article.
1. A Life of Reckless Abandon is a Life of Passion
While there have been thousands of passionate Jesus followers over the centuries, few serve as a better example of gospel-enflamed passion than the Apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 9, we read the following:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV; author’s emphasis added)
Paul likens the life of reckless abandon to that of a runner in a race. While there are many contestants in a race, only one contestant wins, and Paul charges the believers of Corinth to run the race of Christianity to win. He knew better than anyone else of the countless hardships the believers would face for their devotion to Christ, but he believed that the rewards of heaven would outweigh the trials and persecution of earth. His dedication to Christ fueled his passion for the gospel, and there was nothing that could quench his fire.
If we desire to live lives of reckless abandon, we must share in Paul’s passion for the gospel, for it is impossible to overcome the trials that often accompany such a life without this passion.
2. A Life of Reckless Abandon is a Life of Self-Denial
Our unquenchable passion for the gospel fuels the next quality that is characteristic of any follower seeking to live a life of reckless abandon: self-denial. In Luke 9:23, Jesus makes it clear that any true disciple of his teaching must be willing to deny himself. What does he mean by this statement? Self-denial is any time we place the needs of others above our own. Every day, we face hundreds, maybe even thousands of decisions, where we are forced to choose between serving ourselves and serving others. When we choose to serve others in that moment, we honor Jesus, and we live a life of reckless abandon.
3. A Life of Reckless Abandon is a Life of Boldness
Our final quality, which emerges from both our passion for Jesus and our self-denying attitude, is boldness to stand up for what’s right. This is where our definition of reckless abandon from above really comes into play. Boldness is making the right decision, regardless of the consequences that may result from such a decision.
You may recall the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego from your flannel graph Sunday School days. Just in case you’re a little foggy on the details, I’ll give you a quick refresher. In chapter 3 of the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, orders the construction of a statue made in his image. As if this isn’t vain enough, he then orders the inhabitants of Babylon to bow down and worship this statue. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, however, refuse to commit idolatry by bowing down to the statue. As a result of their refusal, these three bold young men are thrown into the fiery furnaces of Babylon. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego are a perfect example of the boldness that results from a passion for the gospel and the self-denial found in true disciples of the living God.
Wrapping It Up
Do you want to live a life of reckless abandon? We’re going to be looking through several additional qualities in the month of July that are characteristic of true disciples of Christ. Stay tuned, check in regularly, and if nothing else, remember that a life of reckless abandon is a life of passion, self-denial, and boldness. Live out the words of Paul described in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”