Safety First

The phenomenon of Christians expecting the safest, most-protected  life possible is wholly absent from the book we claim to be our ultimate truth. Measuring God’s love for us by how well we avoid suffering is completely unfounded.

As offensive as that may be, just think how recent this expectation of safety really is. Disease and tragedy were normal in early and even recent human history. In fact, it still is in the majority world. But in the safe haven of the modernized West, antibiotics and blood pressure medicine are tossed around like Skittles.

Safety is woven into our culture of individualism. So much of what we see and hear makes us believe our own comfort and longevity is the most important thing. It sounds great, making it an easy idol to accept. But we miss how that purpose centers around ourselves instead of our Creator.

See if you don’t catch a whiff of some of the things you’ve told yourself or heard from others in these three lies that are commonly mistaken as Christian teaching:

Lie #1:

“Jesus will protect me from harm”

A few scriptures immediately come to mind:

  • Matthew 10, when Jesus sent out His apostles for a little ministry field trip. His pep talk included no promise of their road being paved before them. It gave no assurance of safety or convenience. In reality, Jesus told them what to do when they were being drug into court and beaten. And that’s only part of it. He wasn’t leading them into safety, but danger. Why? Because the world is dangerous and it’s the world He intends to reach. I imagine most Americans are happy to ignore most of what’s in that chapter.
  • Matthew 16:24-26 is where Jesus gave the famous zinger, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” There’s frankly not a whole lot of denying ourselves going on these days. And it’s easy to miss that when Jesus says “pick up your cross,” He literally means to embrace death and suffering. The cross is not this cutesy symbol of morality and politeness that some may see it as. Before anything else, it’s a declaration of the kind of treatment we, as followers of Christ, are willing to endure.  Just ask the first century Christians. Following Christ doesn’t lead to becoming a better version of yourself. It leads to the death of yourself so that you can find real, eternal life.
  • Revelation 6:9-11 is flat-out crazy. The notion that God has actually appointed a specific number of martyrs may be the single most offensive Biblical truth to someone who wants to believe that God is interested in protecting them from harm.

Don’t mistake this for our Heavenly Father not having a passionate love for us. Jesus being sent to the cross is all the affirmation we need that His love will never be in question. It’s just that we exist to glorify Him, not the other way around.  In a fallen and rebellious world, that gets messy real quick. But don’t forget that this world is not all there is. There’s more–ineffably more. Death is simply when we finally realize just how good our Creator really is, even with the suffering we endured. It’s not that He isn’t faithfully protecting us. It’s that His protection has eternity in mind.

Lie #2:

As a good Christian, I should keep my family as safe as possible

Jesus called us to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). That goes for your spouse and your children as well if they honestly want to follow Christ. But here’s a fun fact: “witness” and “martyr” are the same Greek word.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus described us using the illustration of a lamp bringing light to an entire house. But lamps aren’t for daytime use. We don’t cover them in bubble wrap and keep them safe in a closet when it’s too dark outside. No, it’s the darkest hours when we need light the most.

This lie of safety is born out of fear. But it’s impossible to witness to someone we’re afraid of. If witnessing is our purpose, maybe that’s why the most common command in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” Loving God with your heart doesn’t do much good if you refuse to trust Him with your life, and your families’ lives.

It’s hard to accept Jesus’ promise that following Him would result in being hated by the world. But there’s also an unbelievable amount of comfort in this. It’s similar to what Pastor Doug spoke about this past weekend in “knowing how the game ends,” which reminded me of an article I read in Relevant Magazine recently. A pastor and father of more than seven kids in Nigeria had both of his large churches attacked by Boko Haram, an Islamic group responsible for more deaths than ISIS. They also burned the pastor’s home. In one of the attacks, he was hacked with a machete in the back, neck and head. This is straight from the article: “[He] says his main source of comfort has been that Jesus said [persecution] would happen. And since persecution is certainly taking place, he reasons that surely, Christ’s other promises are true, as well.”

Those “other promises” make any amount of suffering and persecution seem like nothing.

Lie #3:

Satan inspires all suffering and death

I’ll be short since I’m running out of space. If our culture of self-worship and plenty has led to an apathetic attitude toward God, then who is most likely the one behind most of these “blessings”? If they are from God, I have a strange sense they’re more like testings rather than blessings. Even the “best” thing can be a curse if it’s not used to obey the Greatest Commandment of loving God above all else. And on the flip-side, if God wants each of us to yearn for heaven–for something greater than this life–would He really be so interested in giving us total euphoria on earth?

I’ve listed a few other scriptures worth pondering in the comment section below. What do you think? Where does the expectation of safety fit into your pursuit of God?