The word “safety” is pretty trendy these days.
Tonight, I went to Denton to see my fiancee Lindsay. On a normal day, the drive takes about 40 minutes. As I drove home tonight, though, it might have taken a couple of minutes longer than normal. We’ve had a good bit of rain this evening, and the forecast is calling for sharply dropping temperatures. Even though the present temperature remains above freezing (it has already dropped from around 60 this afternoon to the high 30s now), I made sure to be extra cautious as I drove. Rain was coming down in a steady shower and was at times fairly heavy. For a few brief moments I could not even see the stripes on the side of the road. Needless to say, safety was on my brain more than normal as I drove.
As I considered the topic, I realized that we Americans place a high value on safety. We stand in long security lines, have graphic (and even arguably pornographic!) images taken of our bodies, and even sometimes go through intense body searches at the airport – all in the name of safety. Tonight, Lindsay and her roommate both received notice that their respective workplaces had already decided to close tomorrow – not because conditions were presently hazardous, but merely because they were predicted to be as such (I’ll admit that the forecast is pretty ominous, especially for Texas – the conditions tomorrow are expected to be about the same in Fort Worth as Nome, Alaska! Still, the point remains). The word “safety” pulls a lot of weight in our society.
Sometimes I wonder if we treat our faith the same way. At some point, the call to be like Christ became intertwined with the American dream. As Christians, we often seek security, comfort, and safety. We even see it in the Bible; for example, in Psalm 119:117 the psalmist asks God for safety. Interestingly though, the word “safe” is surprisingly absent from the Gospels. It only appears twice (Mark 6:20 and Luke 15:27), and not in either of those times does it reflect a promise from or request to God. Only one of these is two is a statement from Jesus (the Luke passage), used within the parable of the prodigal son to indicate that the son returned “safe and sound” to his family.
With this in mind, it appears as though Jesus isn’t all that interested in safety. Maybe that’s because he broke needless Sabbath rules, often traveled into enemy territory, confronted misguided religious leaders of their wrongdoing, and was ultimately killed because people were afraid of what he might do if they let him live. The life of Jesus was not a life of safety. Jesus had no home. He had no wealth or valuable possessions or “safety net” to fall back on if things didn’t work out just right. Jesus was not interested in keeping himself safe; he was only interested in accomplishing his mission: “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
The problem for most of us, though, is that we try to make God seem safe. We want a life of safety, predictability, and security – we want our nice house with a white picket fence, a dog, and 2.5 kids – so we try to find a way to make it fit with the Gospel. But should it work that way?
I’m not trying to say we should live recklessly or dangerously. Don’t go jumping out of an airplane without a parachute or falling asleep on railroad tracks in an effort to be less safe. We should live wisely, but we shouldn’t hold back from doing what we are called to do because it doesn’t seem safe enough. We don’t have to give up our hopes and dreams in order to follow Jesus, but we can’t resist following for the sake of those dreams. That’s when it becomes a problem. If we hesitate to follow God’s plan because of the risk involved, we’re not living for God but ourselves. That’s why Jesus issued a simple call to his followers – “come, follow me.” It didn’t matter if that meant leaving their fishing nets behind. It didn’t even matter if it even meant leaving family behind. It’s a simple choice – follow or don’t.
So today, seek to follow God without fear. May you seek God’s will for your life and for this particular day of it, and in so doing, may you follow that calling without hesitation.
Jonathan, I must ask your opinion on this thought: You say Jesus did not live a life of safety; however I believe he did, just not for himself. You state that Jesus only wished to accomplish His mission, to be the messenger of God and spread His word. But was that all his mission entailed? Was not part of what he preached that all people are loved by God and those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven? To know that one is loved is a kind of safety that many wish for every day. The ability to know that no matter what happens in life, or what I may do there is someone who will forgive me. It matters not what other people think of those acts.
Safety is not just a physical state of being, but also a spiritual and emotional one. Though I am not as learned when it comes to the Bible as you are, I would argue that everything in the Good Book, Old Testament to the Gospels and New Testament, speaks to spiritual safety. Those who believe in God and trust in God will find “safety” in God. Afterall, we are not just body, but also soul.
You make an interesting point; the certainty of salvation is often called “eternal security” for a reason. While it is true that Jesus offered safety in that he saves people from hell, I am referring more to the idea that he didn’t live a life we would call “safe” and neither did those who followed him. John the Baptist and Peter were killed for following him as countless others have been since. While Jesus does offer assurance – of heaven for eternity and of his love now on earth – I would differentiate that from safety – a comfortable, easy life without difficulty.
Good point DC. Jesus brings a kind of safety for our souls. But I would call it security or, as Jonathan said, assurance. I think Christians have to redefine what safety means for us. I would venture to say that if God calls us to do something that seems unsafe in the world’s eyes, such as be a missionary in a country that is hostile to Christianity…and we disobey him, we are putting ourselves in what could truly be called an unsafe situation. Being outside of God’s will for our lives is what is unsafe. God knows the future, and his will is for our benefit when we give our lives to him (Romans 8:28). Life is like a jungle that should not be braved without the Guide who knows every inch of the jungle, and knows everything about us as well.
Safety: the wish to never lose your life.
I see Jesus avoiding danger a few times by withdrawing from crowds when they wanted to kill Him, but He didn’t run away when it was time for Him to go to the cross. I think it’s interesting that He (or the Father) chose the time and place where He would give His life, and He gave it of His own free will. So, in a sense, He did live with a sort of safety, but it wasn’t for the sake of living. It was for the sake of accomplishing God’s perfect will.
Safety for us in America is… sigh. Uh. It’s weird. I think for us the main issue is “Who do we trust to protect our bodies and souls in this life?” Do we trust the gvmnt? Our insurance policy? Our jobs? Our guns? Our families? or do we trust Holy God? Maybe the answer is how Jesus put it: Don’t fear the one who can only kill the body and no more, but fear the One who can kill the body and the soul.
I agree with you Jonney. We have to be willing to risk our biscuits if we are really being faithful to God.