How should safety be pursued? Should it be pursued? Can we pursue safety and glorify God? Throughout the past few years during the pandemic we’ve seen Christians both scoff at the idea of safety for the sake of “risking for Christ”, and value it above all else for the sake of “loving our neighbor”. How are we to approach this topic faithfully?
We were created for safety.
Adam and Eve were both safe relationally and circumstantially. They walked naked and unashamed with God in the garden and with each other (Gen 2-3). They had nothing to fear and no threats to asses. We also see in Revelation the vision of the new creation that this state will return because “death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away (21:4).” As we look back to humanity’s origin story and look forward to the fulfillment of our redemption story we see that safety is inherently provided and an assumed part of existence in both circumstances. Thus the deep longing for safety that we feel is not to be ignored! It’s a longing we’re created with that shows what we were made for. However, the brokenness of the world and our hearts both contribute to its scarcity.
Safety is now elusive in a fallen world.
The effects of the fall are profound and widespread (Gen 3). Danger is everywhere, death and pain are parts of life (Ecc. 3), and relief is often absent. Although we were created to subdue the earth, to give and receive love, and to be save and secure in God and with others, all of those longings and desires are now much harder to attain because of the fall. Yet we’re still human; we still desire to control and subdue, we desire to love and be loved, and we desire safety and security. This creates a tension that we seek to resolve on our own. We believe the lie that we’re alone and need to provide for ourselves. Therefore the longing for safety often turns inward and seeks fulfillment outside God’s provision.
Pursuing safety can become a pursuit rife with idolatry.
If safety is our desire, then idols are the things that provide us with what we want outside of God. Whether people, possessions, or money, all these things will rule our lives, enslave us, and ultimately let us down. Like the Canaanites went to idols to be provided with rain or fertility, we go to idols for safety (and many other things). We face a choice to either resolve the tension on our own through idols, or hold fast to the future promises of God by faith in worship.
Walking by faith in the tension is our calling.
The struggle is real, the tension is palpable, but Godward faith, trust, and worship is the alternative to idolatry. Part of walking by faith is an acknowledgment that the tension will never be resolved before the New Creation. Until then, we can never experience perfect fulfillment, only foretaste. Can we be content? Sure! See Philippians 4:10-14 in that regard. But until the curse is reversed we must faithfully hold the tension of our restless desires with our expectations on their fulfillment. We groan for the future New Creation (Romans 8), while remembering here and now that God “will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:22).
So where and how should we pursue it?
Relationally, we are called to be safe for each other by not gossiping, not being self-exalting, supporting one another, not judging another falsely, and speaking truth in love (Eph 4-5). The transformation process inherently contains risk through vulnerablity, and it must be done in community. Creating a safe place for people to risk vulnerability, receive accountability, and confess is a vital part of this process. It is the calling of all Christians to foster safe relational environments of loving accountability, extravagant support, and empathetic curiosity. The paradox is that vulnerable risk is required to create a safe place in our families, small groups, and churches. The risk is worth it and even necessary!
Circumstantially, safety is never guaranteed in this broken world. Yet wisdom avoids both rashly ignoring fear or being paralyzed with fear. There are risks that would be foolish to take, and there are risks where we could glorify God and grow through. The way of wisdom holds the fear of the Lord above all else (Prov 9:10). This doesn’t disqualify or ignore “lesser fears”, just orders our fears rightly under God. That is why “fear of the Lord” and worship of God are so interchangeable in the Psalms and Proverbs. Rightly ordered fear leads to wisdom and worship. It’s not “if I’m ever afraid”, but “when I am afraid I will trust in you (Ps 56:3)”. Hear Jesus’ call to “not be afraid” as an invitation to trust and worship him instead of a judgmental command. He understands us deeply as our sympathetic High Priest, and yet is always calling us into further mature faith and trust. May we hold the tension with the open hands of faith, welcoming whatever comes, and worshipfully direct that deep longing for safety to the Father, by the Son, and through the Spirit who groans on our behalf.
What are you advising? What are you saying people should do in their pursuit of safety? I would like to see you respond to this.
“If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.”- President Eisenhower
“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”- Benjamin Franklin
“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery”- Thomas Jefferson
7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Did you read all the way? The last section gives broad principles relationally and circumstantially. Wisdom, God’s glory, faith and love all must be considered when we discern what to do. Risk is a result of the fall, and is also a necessary part of walking by faith. It would be helpful if you were a little more clear about what the problem is.
I am asking you to be specific. Everybody knows there are risks. What is the appropriate response? Give some examples. Has anything been wrong in the past 20 months with the way people have behaved?
What I see is totally irrational fear. And it is putting all of us in grave danger. It appears that you are trying to defend that position.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
In Genesis, I see great freedom and abundance, not a desire for safety. They just had to obey God.
The scope of the post is fairly narrow (as it should be). We all have holy longings, those desires can become “over-desires” or idolatry in a fallen world where open handed faith is called for. I’m not here to tell you what log you have to take out of your own eye. What’s your irrational fear? Where’s the risk for you? What holy longing do you have to surrender to God? Everyone has their own vulnerabilities that will create different fears and longings. Risk is subjective. What it is for one isn’t for another. Irrational fear over losing political power will suck the life out of you just as much as irrational fear over sickness. One camp will always say it’s not fear, just reality they are responding to, and point the finger. We must look at ourselves first.
It’s fascinating that you judge me as defending that position you mentioned. Not that I’m sure what that position is, but I doubt that I hold it. Just shows we all read (and write) with some heavy lenses we can be unaware of. My goal is for everyone to read it and consider their holy longings, how they have pursue them falsely, and how they may surrender them to God. The specifics will vary for every story.
What you said about Genesis is true but incomplete. They didn’t want safety, they didn’t have to desire love, they didn’t have to pursue those things because they were provided for.
I could see this idea brewing in your mind since the Q&A @ the spiritual life conference. It was in mine as well. Where does Risk fall in? Thank you for this. It’s seems to me ‘safety’ is an aspect of a larger picture of Shalom. It seems like ‘risk’ is perhaps part of our individual calling on our life.
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For sure! Risk is a calling in a fallen world, safety is part of the original design that we long for.
If you take me as being overly critical, then be specific over what YOU think is a rational approach to seeking safety. I think there has been a focus on safety to the point of mental illness for the last 20+ months. Do you not agree?
I am not worried about losing political power because I never had any to begin with.