(Originally posted 10 May 2020)
Good morning. As per usual, on Sundays I will start with a post on faith for all audiences, believers and not. This one’s a little longer but I hope it blesses you.
What does it mean to be “safe”? Today in America, the word “safe” is very popular. Everyone has their opinion about whether we are “safely” managing the virus, “safely” opening businesses, or “safely” rejoining society. There are several English words in the Bible that refer to being safe – “saved”, “delivered”, “rescued”, “secured”, and so on. Christians even call the moment of their acceptance of Christ “being saved.” “Safety” is a powerful incentive for humans – we all want to experience it, all the time. So…what is it, and how do we know we have it?
Is it building walls around ourselves so that incoming threats cannot reach us? Is it eliminating the threat completely? Is it removing ideas, things, and people from our lives so we don’t have to acknowledge their existence anymore? Is it micro-managing every small aspect of every segment of our lives to avoid any deviations or errors?
Is it something that you DO or something that you ARE?
The New Testament (NIV) contains the word “safe” 11 times. None of them describe a state of being, locked away inside an impenetrable fortress that no one can assail. Instead, they describe activities – guarding, preserving, rescuing. That is more critical than just semantics, because the inference is that there are always threats to our safety that must be acknowledged. This means that whatever “safety” we perceive in any situation is only as good as the strength of the guarantor compared to the impending threats. I am “safer” from a tornado in a concrete shelter ASSUMING that the shelter is well-made. I am “safer” from a bullet when wearing a Kevlar vest ASSUMING that the bullet hits the vest. You see, “safety” isn’t something you have – it’s something that must emerge from the choices you make, every day, choices that do not eliminate risks but only manage them. Risk must always be part of the equation because there is no earthly entity that can universally and completely remove it.
Arguing about whether it is “safe” enough to open businesses or go to parks is a complete waste of time because the premise of the argument (“safety”) is not a quantity or a signal. It’s not like the oven announcing when it’s hot enough to cook the pizza. It’s not objective data. You and I decide how safe we are and what precautions are necessary. We should do things to create safety, but we often do things because we believe we HAVE safety (or not). This leads to self-fulfilling prophecies: “I think it’s safe – I behave based on that belief – nothing bad happens to me, because I knew it was safe.” “I think it’s not safe – I behave based on that belief – nothing bad happens to me, because I knew it was not safe.” See how both lines of thought lead to the same conclusion?
So many Christians live a frustrating life because we misunderstand “safety.” We start including things into the list of what God has “saved” in us that don’t belong. We believe that God has “saved” our health, our finances, our sense of security, our way of life, our country, but none of that is true. The only thing God has secured is that which is eternal. Our “safety” here on this planet is not part of the deal. And even so, God’s “safety” is contingent on our daily acceptance of His promise DESPITE the threats that rage on around us, because He never promised to remove them. In fact, the Biblical authors make it very clear that our “salvation” in no way guarantees invulnerability on this earth.
In I Thessalonians 5:1-11, the author writes this about the return of Christ:
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Did you notice that our “safety” in this passage is portrayed as preparing for war? Putting on breastplates and armor? Staying vigilant and clear-headed, not saying “peace and safety”? Our salvation in Christ is the most secure condition imaginable, but still the message is not, “Now that you’re safe, you needn’t worry about anything happening to you.” Instead, the message is, “Prepare. Resist. Brace.” Instead of passively reveling in the false perception that we are safe and protected, we must act to create that safety through the armor of God. We are most “safe” when we realize, fully, how vulnerable we can be, at a moment’s notice.
If you’ve lived your life always chasing “safety”, always building more walls around you, trying to control everything around you, or refusing to acknowledge anything that doesn’t fit your worldview so that you can feel “safe”, you’re chasing after the wind. Running away only creates the illusion of safety. Instead, stand firm in God, prepare yourself with the Word, and face the threats head on, knowing that no matter what damage you take here, He has rescued that which matters.
Have a wonderful Sunday – and Happy Mother’s Day.