I am amazed at how “safety” has become a god for the average Christian.
I’m not pointing fingers, because I’m part of that group.
So many of my prayers are variations of “Jesus, please keep me safe” or “Please protect us from…”
Those prayers aren’t “bad,” but they rarely go any deeper. Christians (especially here in America) value safety and security as much as anyone else does.
Safety from persecution.
American Christians are sometimes quick to cry “persecution.” But we have no idea what real persecution is.
There are Christians around the world being persecuted. According to the organization Open Doors, over 260 million Christians live in countries where persecution takes place. That’s 1 out of 8 Christians worldwide. (And of course, other religions — and even atheists — are persecuted in various countries as well. We’d be lying if we said we’re the only group who gets punished for our beliefs.)
Our brothers and sisters who live in these countries know what real fear is. They live in terror daily, yet still choose to walk with Jesus. Their faith challenges me to stop being self-focused. Their problems are so much bigger than a Starbucks barista not wishing them Merry Christmas.
We live in a country where we get to follow Jesus without fear of bodily harm. How awesome is that?! I’m thankful for the freedom our country gives us to choose any religion or none at all. I thank God for it.
This safety granted to us by the government is wonderful. But it was never guaranteed by our leader. For some reason, we have come to expect protection because we’re Christians. But Jesus promised the opposite.
Safety from ideas.
The threat of persecution is not something American Christians have to think about often. But there is another type of danger we want Jesus to shield us from. We seek intellectual safety.
As Christians, it’s great to belong to the community of believers called the church. Our sisters and brothers can encourage us as we grow in our faith.
But if we’re not careful, we can insulate ourselves in an echo chamber. Instead of being salt and light to the world as we’re called to be, we turn inward. We only feel safe around people who share our views.
When we bump up against people who have a different value system, we feel threatened. So instead of moving toward them with curiosity, we write them off. We have God on our side, so our views about [insert any relevant cultural topic] are always right. Those other people are godless, and just “don’t get it.”
I’m not saying we need to agree with everyone’s views. But can I at least drop my shield long enough to listen? So often, it seems we revert back to children — we cover our ears and yell, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you, la la la la la!”
It’s easy to justify my behavior by thinking I’m “standing up for God.” But when I respond to an attack on Christianity with a mean-spirited comment, I have to search my motives. Am I really trying to defend God, or my own bruised ego? Am I trying to make God look good (something he needs no help with) or myself look good?
Whenever I make safety my primary goal, I am settling for less. Safety is always about me and my needs. But Jesus has called me to live into a bigger story.
There is a kind of safety Jesus provides.
It’s the kind of safety that calls me out of my comfort zone. It’s the kind of safety that takes the focus off of me and puts it on others.
I have a shepherd who searches the wilderness to find me when I get lost. I have a father who throws me a party when I come home. I have a God who says no matter what happens to my body, my soul is secure.
I am completely safe in the love of Jesus. There’s nothing I can ever do to make him stop loving me. I am so secure in his love that I can stop making the show all about me.
This is a kind of safety that should propel me to action. It’s a safety that invites me to get my hands dirty.
It’s the kind of safety that calls me to drop my defenses and embrace anyone as a friend — including people I see as enemies.
If I really believe in the good news of Jesus — if I believe I’m fully loved — I should be the most secure person you ever met. When someone has an opposing view, I should move toward them in curiosity and kindness.
Christians should be some of the most open-minded people on the planet. We should be so safe in Jesus’ love that we have nothing to prove. We should greet every new idea with, “Really? Tell me more about your story and how you came to believe what you believe.”
But so often, I settle for less.
I want a safety that protects my pride. I want a safety that doesn’t challenge me to move outside my comfort zone.
The disciples wanted safety, too.
Jesus’ friends saw him as a king, and they were right. He was a king, but not the kind of king they were hoping for. They wanted a king who would provide them safety. They wanted a king who would overthrow the Roman government and take back the power.
Instead, Jesus gave up his life for the world. But before he did, he shared these final words with his friends:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. (John 13:34, NLT)
I am safe because I am loved by Jesus.
Now, will I go out and risk it all to love as he did?