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.