I feel like God has been convicting me of something lately, and it is our world’s preoccupation with safety.
In my small group’s Bible study this past week, one of the questions we had to answer was, “How have you experienced Jesus beckoning you nearer to His throne recently?” For me, it is in inviting me to forego my sense of safety.
We live in a broken world, and terrible things happen every day. Making safe choices is often the responsible thing to do. But, I am reminded of Jesus’ instructions to His followers in Matthew:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:24-27)
I feel that in America, it is the norm to live as though a person can elude death indefinitely if we simply take enough precautions – if we live safe enough. I can understand this preoccupation with safety for people who do not believe in an afterlife – after all, if this life is the only shot I get, I would want to make it count, and I would want to make it last. By what I have trouble understanding is why so many Christians fall into the same mindset and place safety ahead of obedience to Christ’s instructions. Our faith is founded on our belief that through Jesus Christ, we will inherit eternal life, so when we do inevitably die, we will go to heaven and live forever in the presence of our God. Our earthly life is simply preparing us for eternity, where we will be rewarded according to how we led our lives on Earth.
And yet, overwhelmingly we choose to insulate and isolate ourselves from real or perceived harm as much as possible, which often puts us at odds with God’s commands. Sure, we may volunteer at the soup kitchen every now and then, but then we return home to our gated communities in our safe neighborhoods full of people just like us. We are willing to serve the poor, but we certainly don’t want to live near them. We lock down our borders to refugees fleeing from unspeakable horrors because the potential threat they pose to our safety outweighs God’s call to love our neighbors, be hospitable to the foreigner, and rescue the oppressed. We post on social media about injustice, but when we are invited to a bad part of town to pray for a community crying out for justice, we decide we are too uneasy about physically being there to attend. After all, we can pray for justice from the comfort and safety of our own home, right? We keep and carry firearms in case harm should befall us, because while we say we are pro-life when talking about unborn babies, we still reserve the right to take someone else’s life if we feel our own is being threatened.
The truth is that where there is the greatest need for the Gospel, there is also often the greatest danger. No one knew that better than the early church. Of the original 12 apostles, 8 died as martyrs, at least two of whom were crucified.
What I am coming to realize is the way I live my life is so much more important than the length I live my life. And as such, when I have to choose between safety and obedience, I pray for the courage to choose the latter. As Peter (one of the apostles who was crucified for his faith in Christ) wrote:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats, do not be frightened. But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. (1 Peter 3:13-15)