I was chatting on-screen customer service the other day, and at the end of the conversation, the representative typed “Stay safe.” Not once, but twice. I hear it everywhere. I used to hear “Have a nice day,” but apparently that is no longer in vogue. These days, its all masks and hand sanitizer and distance as a verb. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t leave your home. Your coffee is lava-hot. This knife is sharp and is known to cause injury. Don’t go there. Don’t sing here. Stay safe.
When did the cult of personal safety begin to rule the day? Before the Pandemic? Before 9-11? After World War II? Before the invention of the key ring taser? When did courage and care for others give way to comfort and isolation?
I would suggest to you that an unmitigated desire for safety is manufactured by the human idol factory–the heart. And always has been. From Adam’s naked fear in the Garden, to Moses’ stuttering protests, to Sampson’s tragic hair cut. From Jonah’s maritime voyage in the fish to Peter’s reluctant net-cast on the other side, humanity has sought to protect our egos, our psyches, and our knees.
We easily give into an assumption that everyone and everything is out to get us. We blame the McDonald’s hot coffee, not having our devotions, and/or the Universe for all of the bad things that happen (or could happen) to us. Even the Babylon Bee pokes at the extremities of our security with the headline “Gavin Newsom says California will stay on lockdown until scientists find a cure for death.“
I know, some of you are thinking, “You were never held as a baby, were you?!” Don’t worry, I was! And my parents love me and have only ever desired God’s best in my life. But even today, my Dad reminds me on every phone call, “Don’t do anything stupid.” That is VERY different from “Stay Safe.”
I am NOT saying don’t wear a mask or a seatbelt. I’m not advocating that you send your kids to play in traffic or encourage them to lick the shopping cart at the grocery store. I am talking about living life to the fullest, glorifying God, making Him known, and serving His people.
So what does the Bible tell us about this idol of safety that we are so quick to serve?
Fear is a terrible master. I am often ruled by my fears–of getting really sick, of being alone, of saying something super dumb on camera. Our Creator knows that we are a timid people. Perhaps this is why He tells us more than 100 times in His Word: Do Not Be Afraid. I was thinking today of Jesus’ nap in the middle of the storm in Matthew 8. Upon being awakened, He said to His disciples, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” He calmed the winds, the disciples marveled, “Even the winds and the sea obey Him!” This is the One who repeats “Fear not. Don’t be afraid. Do not fear.”
We should expect hardship. Life is not easy. It often doesn’t go the way we want it to. We live in a fallen world, and are daily impacted by crumbling bodies, broken relationships, and pollen that seeks to choke off our very breath. And the Christ-Follower should expect more difficulties. Look at what David Prince wrote this week.
“Paul tells Timothy, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Simply put, if the gospel is true, a safety-first, safety-centric worldview is a lie. A world where nothing is worth suffering and dying for is a world in which it is difficult to discern what is worth living for. Teach your children that love itself is an aggressive act that is often costly and demands courage. Defending the defenseless, speaking truth in love, and helping those in need, will often put them in harm’s way.”David Prince
To live is Christ and to die is gain. If you know Jesus, this is not your final chapter. Life doesn’t have to be perfect here–it won’t be! But it will be some day, and we need to keep our eyes on that. I love the fact that the Apostle Paul was the one who wrote that line in Philippians 1. He was in prison, his detractors were trying to add insult to injury, and he was likely facing a death sentence. Whatever happens, Paul says, the Gospel must keep going out. Whatever happens here and now, the resurrection with Jesus is going to be so much better!
Only in God is my soul at rest. In Him is my salvation. He alone is my rock and my strength, my fortress and my deliverer. Psalm 62 (and many others) commends rest in God and trust in Him as the only location of any safety–from threats, from attacks, from liars. Safety from death, from self importance, from oppression, and from the false hope of wealth. He is our safety.
Have you found yourself making safety your god? Are there ways you are training your children that don’t factor in the sovereignty of a kind God? Are you letting your fear keep you from serving people at your church? Have you turned your back on having a hard conversation? Where do you need courage right now?
Maybe you need a chat with my dad, but in the meantime, don’t do anything stupid!