When we say “Yes” what may it involve? As I think of it three factors contribute to our agreement or consent; certainty, risk and trust. Among the exemplary biblical characters whose response to God was ‘Yes’, Abraham, Daniel, Mary and Paul come to mind among many others. Jesus stands supreme, being from his conception, the Divine ‘Yes’ in God’s redemptive purpose for the world.
The dictionary defines ‘certainty’ as being positive, confident, convinced about the truth of something; ‘risk’ as to proceed in an action without regard to the possibility of danger involved in it; and ‘trust’ as reliance or confidence in the truth, worth, reliability of a person or thing. Each of these elements is integral in a love relationship. Two people meet and each becomes certain they are in love with the other. This certainty is undefinable, but they know it for sure and want to share life together. Their love-talk ends with a readiness to risk everything and a willingness to trust in the other’s care, fidelity, reliability and honesty. The wedding ceremony is the Yes part, the full commitment. Marriage is the arena where their certainty, risk and trust are put to the test by the pressure tests, of responsibility, uncertainty, self-sacrifice and unexpected life events.
Mary was still in her teens when her divine visitor brought her the stunning news of God’s selection (Lk.1:26-8). From all the women in the world Mary, residing in an obscure village, inexperienced, innocent yet committed in a cultural betrothal to Joseph, was chosen. God would embed himself in the flesh of her womb. The impact was startling, ‘She was thoroughly shaken (Lk.1:29) TM. She would be unable to hide her pregnancy. Her condition would be a violation of traditional custom, a subject of scandal and gossip in Nazareth. Her “Yes”, sprang from the certainty of the visit and greeting she had received. No one could deny what she had experienced. She was aware of the risks child bearing involved and of the damage to her reputation in the mind of Joseph and her standing in the community. From the moment of the encounter she trusted her future to the integrity of her divine visitor and the One from who the message had come. Eugene Petersen comments ‘Mary (is) the archetypal Christian, the person who hears and receives, believes and submits to the Word that conceives Christ in us’.
Abraham said “Yes” to a voice within him, an inner certainty that God wanted (called) him to leave the area he knew and go to an area he did not know. Moving into the unknown taking with him his wife and all his possessions was a huge risk. His only insurance was his trust in the promises God had given him. Settling in the new land he tried for many years to conceive with Sarah his wife without success. When at last she fell pregnant and gave birth to a son what a joy it was for both of them. Then came an almost unbelievable conviction, he felt certain was from God, to sacrifice his precious son. Again he said “Yes”, ready to risk his entire future and all the promises God had made. Though it seemed nonsensical and a contradiction of all his hopes and Sarah’s devoted affection he took his son to the appointed place trusting God would not fail him. His “Yes” to God swept him into the intimidating currents of risk and trust. Abraham and Mary are archetypes of what it means to say “Yes” to God who wants to share his life with us by becoming incarnate within us.
Before we came to South Africa I had been rejected as a prospective candidate for the Methodist Church in Britain. It was a denial of my hope and the confidence others had expressed. Then, totally unexpected, a letter came from South Africa inviting me to consider applying for the ministry there. To answer “Yes” involved my wife, I was certain of an inward call, but commitment included the risk of severing ties with family and homeland and embarking on a venture into the unknown trusting God was somehow involved. Dag Hammarskjold, former General Secretary of U.N.O. tells us ‘I don’t know Who or what put the question. I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remembering answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone or Something – and from that hour I was certain existence is meaningful and that, therefore my life, in self-surrender had a goal’.
Saying “Yes” to Jesus does not eliminate doubts, struggles, questions, or disappointments. ‘The most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes to the present riseness of Jesus Christ…..Yes is an act of faith – a decisive, wholehearted response of my whole being to the risen Jesus present beside me, before me, around me and within me’ (Brennan Manning). In Christian discipleship we are saying “Yes” to his invitation; it is no guarantee we will not fall. ‘Live in me. Make your home in me Just as I do in you’ (Jn15:4). That’s the inviting prospect of a life with meaning which follows a “Yes” to Jesus.