Jacksonville College

Are you safe? 

May 20th, 2020 / By: Gary Ledbetter | Editor / comments

Are you safe? 

You’ve heard the greeting and seen a million ads from celebrities and businesses that close by telling you to “stay safe.” I appreciate the sentiment to whatever degree it might be sincere. But the idea of safety seems small to me, just as constant fear about getting sick seems to cheapen the day we’ve been given. We should be more than safe. 

No, I’m not downplaying appropriate caution. Think about rattlesnakes (yikes!). Caution means I don’t put my hand under a rock ledge in the woods without looking; it doesn’t mean I don’t walk in the woods. Being safe in this case could run the gamut from staying in the car with the windows up to continuing my hike with an eye on where I step. Leaving the house is a risk I take in hope of a payoff that outweighs any imaginable danger. We all live that way, don’t we? That’s why I really hate the reasoning I heard from one politician that ended with, “if it saves one child’s life it’s worth it.” Of course it depends on the antecedent of “it” but I’ve heard this used to justify many different forms of caution, regulation or prohibition. The fact that we feed our families food prepared by strangers and drive more than 30 mph on the highway indicates that we are not willing to do (or avoid) “whatever it takes” to make sure no one is accidentally hurt. 

Ultimately, our calling is not to safety as conceived in the minds of those who think life ends here. In Luke 14 Jesus teaches his disciples that the risks of being his disciples are high and the cost is ultimate. He underscores this shortly before his death by telling the disciples in John 15 that they will suffer as he suffered. This would include want, danger and death for the sake of the gospel. In Matthew’s telling of the Luke 14 discourse, Jesus says that, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We all struggle with that. That’s why when our missionary loved ones in hostile places ask us to pray for boldness and opportunities, we often pray instead for their safety.    

It’s a matter of priority. I consider bungee jumping a foolish risk, but it is probably safer than trips I’ve taken for the gospel. It would be in keeping with my call to discipleship to suffer as result of preaching Christ in a dangerous place. The adrenaline rush of free-falling 200 feet is too small a reward. We all expend our lives in service of something, virtue or vice. The calling of a Christian is to spend ourselves in service of the God who made us rather than burying our talent in the dirt to keep it safe. Frequent anxiety about our safety or security will keep us away from the things for which we were given these days.  

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, a favorite book in my household, tells the story of four children who wander into another world, a kingdom whose master is a lion named Aslan, clearly representing Jesus in the story. One of the girls asks another character about Aslan, nervous after hearing him described as the “great lion,” if (being a lion) he was safe. “Safe?” came the response, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.” C.S. Lewis offers us again a deep insight into our God. He is holy, unchanging, beyond measure, eternal and just. None of those things is “safe” to unholy, transient, limited, temporal and unjust mortals. It stands to reason that following our God would not be safe either. We shouldn’t worry about that much because he is good. 

In an eschatological sense we are as safe as houses. Our salvation is with Jesus, unassailable. But this world is not safe for our flesh. If Jesus tarries, something is going to get us. It sucks the joy from our heavenly hope if we grasp so tightly to the life we cannot keep that we miss the purpose for our days and years. Yes, “stay safe” is a fine benediction as you part company with a friend. But don’t let that become your life verse. It’s too small a thing for those who follow the great Lion.