One of our family’s favorite movies is Dudley Do-Right based on a cartoon with a Canadian Mountie as the main character. The Canadian Mountie is a legendary figure with “Maintien le Droit,” or “uphold the right” as his motto. The responsibilities of the Mountie call for bravery. Heroism. Strength. They were fearless, and they were the Law; worthy of authority and respect.
But Dudley is anything but these expected Mountie qualities. He is spineless, clumsy, and intimidated. As the movie progresses, we see Dudley surrounded by a whole gang of bad guys. Robbing the local bank and taking over the town, these surly characters in black jackets and face masks are moving fast.
Dudley finds himself out-witted. He loses his job and stumbles across a bum up in the mountains. The bum takes Dudley under his wing and teaches him how to be a hero. The bum’s last words to his foundling student are, “get out there and do something dangerous!” Bruised and confused, Dudley stumbles away in search of adventure.
Get out there and do something dangerous. This sounds an awfully lot like the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-22. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the enemy’s schemes…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Paul is cheering on a new church intent on advancing the gospel in the pagan Roman Empire. Paul himself sits in prison bound in chains as he writes. He knows what is at stake for the church if they do not heed these words. The Christian faith will die out. Justice and righteousness according to God’s Law would no longer be maintained. Yet, Paul knows what is at stake for the new church if they do heed his words. Persecution. Imprisonment for daring to worship anyone but the Caesar. Maybe even death. It was a tough choice. One that needed to be made in spite of the danger and hardship it would invite.
Following Jesus is dangerous. In his book, The Good and Beautiful Life, James Bryan Smith says, “Jesus observes that those who pursue righteousness are going against the grain of society, and that will result in persecution. Following Jesus is dangerous–if we lead the kind of life he calls us to. When we choose to fight for justice and peace or not to lie or judge others, we will face backlash. The promise in the last beatitude is the same as in the first: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we align ourselves with Jesus and observe his ways, we are in the kingdom” (pp. 61-62).
The kingdom. The territory where God reigns. The place where we are called to live dangerously. Go on a mission. Dare to be a serious disciple of Christ. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Live by values. Pray.
Don’t we often feel like Dudley Do-Right? Intimidated in the face of evil or hardship and bumbling along in confusion hoping that something we did today counted? It is in times like this when Jesus calls us to an adventure. His adventure. Living life in the kingdom. Because it is when we are taking the risks and counting the cost that we are in the safest place of all–his plan for our lives lived out under his protection in his strength with his armor firmly in place.