It is a testament to God’s grace that He uses broken and severely flawed people to build His Church. There are many things we can point to in the church’s past that amaze and dismay…the crusades, slavery, and as often pointed out by young people, materialism.
Today another value has emerged in the developed-world that is insidious in its implications. It is that safety and security is one of our highest goals in life – even a higher value than the spread of the gospel or simply following the call of God on our lives (although we would not admit that).
When safety is held as a high value it can trump obedience to God’s directive to go into the world and make disciples, to do ministry in a “bad” area of town, to travel to many parts of our world for ministry purposes or even to risk offending a friend or neighbor by sharing the Gospel. A focus on safety means we buy only the newest car with the most safety features, don’t allow our kids to take risks considered a normal part of childhood a generation ago and we watch documentaries and read magazines that paint the world as a dangerous place which reinforces our fears.
Since the church is often heavily influenced by its culture, this type of thinking has seeped into teaching and preaching, Bible studies, and small group fellowships. The search for and value of safety becomes a given and people who don’t live that way are often considered foolish.
God speaks of safety often in the Bible, but it is in the context of what Heprovides, not what we should pursue on our own. He calls us to seek Him for our security, to ask Him for safe travel, to step out in faith and depend on His protection. Nowhere does the Bible say that a person of faith is to seek his/her own safety or to decide whether to follow His leading based on how safe it is. When the Ephesian elders tried to convince Paul not to travel to Jerusalem for safety reasons, he replied to them "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13-14)."
C.S. Lewis described this well in his portrayal of the lion, Aslan (a Christ figure) when he wrote, “He is not safe, but he is good.” In a world where 24/7 news has to catch our attention to generate advertising dollars, fear sell: stories of hurricanes, wars, earthquakes, and criminals give hosts something to talk about and ads to sell. But when Christians don’t use God-given filters and evaluate what they see and hear in the context of God’s Word, we are at risk of being influenced more by society than by our Father.
Is safety wrong? No. But the pursuit of safety to the detriment of obedience to God’s call is a tragedy that could have a larger impact on spreading the Gospel than many of the church’s past failings.