‘Caution: slippery when wet’
Our society is risk-averse. With our endless road signs, laws and regulations, we’ve cultivated a society that champions safety and prioritises the elimination of risk. Our Western world is safety obsessed.
How have we got here? Surely, our love of money is a part of the picture. We don’t want to pay out for an ‘oversight’, and so we love the fine print. Our faith is in the fine print. Human hubris and the unrealistic belief that there is a world in which we can truly control every outcome and risk also forms a part of the picture. It has led to urbanisation and infrastructure. Increasingly, the average human experience is ‘life in the city’ – where our buildings, streets and city lights allow us the illusion of safety. ‘If you live within our city walls, and follow our laws, you will flourish and thrive’ is the catch cry.
Most of all, however, our safety obsession must stem from our fear of our own mortality. Death is our common enemy and so let’s give ourselves a fighting chance to keep it at bay as long as possible. We do this partly by denying death’s power and keeping it at the peripheries of the human experience: in our hospitals and out of our conversations. ‘Fifty is the new thirty’ is the lie that ‘death has no power’, wrapped up in billions of dollars of cosmetic branding. We fear death and its portents: sickness and age. So we adopt a ‘safety mindset’ to protect ourselves.
Perhaps there are other reasons for how we got here. Nevertheless, safety has become a virtue and aspiration. We use the ‘safe’ adjective endlessly: safe schools, safe house, safe spaces, safe ministry. We cannot conceive of a world in which there is ever an argument against safety. My question is whether this is a good and biblical thing?
Please be assured, this isn’t an argument for recklessness! A society with no laws and regulations for the general good is a place of chaos. However, this is an argument against taking ‘safety’ as an absolute ‘good’ without some biblical discernment. What is lost with our world’s safety obsession?
The book in the Bible that has most challenged my ‘safety mindset’ in regards to gospel ministry is 2 Corinthians. In this passionate letter from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church, he urges us to peer away from the blinding lights of the impressive Corinthian city, and to fix our eyes on heaven, to preach a gospel of a crucified One and to forgo the securities of this world – even our lives on this earth – for the salvation of others.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the
life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us,
but life in you. (2 Cor 4:11-12)
To engage in gospel ministry is to be given over to death for Christ’s sake, so that others would know the life Christ offers. Paul’s love for the Corinthians is so great he will even live a life that looks like dying. He’ll be afflicted, persecuted, and hurt for them. By every measure, his life looked in danger. He was bleeding out life for them – giving his minutes, hours and years for them. He was giving up comfort and home and security for them. He was giving himself up for them … much like Jesus did.
In a world that teaches us to love ourselves – where the self is sacred and must be protected as priority – the Apostle Paul gives up that ‘safety mindset’ for his love of Jesus and others. And not only does he forgo his own security – but he speaks a gospel that destroys strongholds, arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God … it’s the gospel that creates a new person and removes the old. It’s the gospel that pierces and cuts and shows up human hubris for the foolishness it is. To live and preach the gospel is about as dangerous as it gets! Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us that. If we conform to our world’s obsession with safety, are we at risk of foregoing a Christ-like and Paul-like gospel
Our society’s instinct for safety is a yearning for a permanence in this life that is essentially elusive. It cannot be achieved in a world of sin and death. As a Christian, I pray I resist the urge to build up a life of safety now, for the sake of the lost and the only life that can assure their souls the safety they crave.
2 Corinthians puts uncomfortable questions before me: Am I willing to die? Perhaps not tomorrow, or the
next day – but am I willing to die over the next 5-6 decades that God gives me life? Will I slowly, at times
quite painfully, give up my minutes and hours and years – my remaining youthful energy – my coming wisdom of age? Will I give that all up to serve the Lord Jesus, for the only lasting salvation of our souls?