Jeremy Lusk, an American freestyle motocross professional, died on Tuesday after crashing while attempting a back flip in competition. He was only 24 years old. Right now his family and loved ones are asking questions. No doubt many of them are wondering why; not so much why did he die, but why did he have to do something that involved so much risk? It is reported that he died with his parents and his wife by his side.
After a tragic and seemingly needless death like this occurs, debate will often ensue as to whether Jeremy Lusk acted irresponsibly. With a wife and family, should he have been out performing such dangerous motorcycle jumps? Do those actions demonstrate a life marked by self-centeredness and irresponsibility? Should the same questions be asked of men and women who are firefighters, police officers, and military personnel? Reaching conclusions at such questions is nearly impossible because every person and situation must evaluated for their own unique circumstances. I think, however, I can say this with all confidence: Jeremy Lusk was a motocross rider. It’s who he was. So it’s who he had to be.
The issue I want to raise after such a terrible accident is not so much a debate concerning the aforementioned questions, but rather an inward meditation on who we are as Christians. Are we being who we are?
The example of Lusk serves as a reminder that mere identification with a career, a hobby, or a religion is really a pointless exercise unless we are in the process of being that person, namely, that our actions coincide with our identity. Taking the risk of truly being who you are is a rare commodity it seems. As Christians, it means we take the risk of ridicule. Of hate. Of being offensive. Of not fitting in. You know, of carrying our cross. It also means we dare act in ways contrary to culture by being submissive. Being humble. Being sacrificial. Why? Because it’s who we are, so it’s who we have to be.
My mom doesn’t particularly like heavy metal music. I have yet to walk into her house and see her jamming to the latest Metallica release. Growing up, no one in my family ever liked heavy metal. My brother is indefinitely linked with the 80’s. My sister, in the late 80’s, was a New Kids on the Block fanatic. Yet, I started bringing home these crazy bands with these crazy guitar sounds. I then eventually took my love for hard rock and turned it into a ministry. My mother was resistant at first. But then she realized something; it was who I was. So it was who I had to be. She has never brought the subject up again. It is a lesson I am going to try my hardest to remember as my beautiful little girl grows up. She won’t be Philip. She will be Callie Grace.
The same principle is true for the church. We stop being who we are when we are so concerned that guests feel “welcome” that we fail to preach the breadth and scope of the Gospel. We stop being who we are when a reliance on committees supercedes our reliance on God. We stop being who we are when blatant and consistent sin gets swept under the rug. We may be identified as the church, but we aren’t being the church.
Did Jeremy Lusk take too many risks? I don’t know.
But I know that most of us don’t take enough.