February 24, 2014

Gospel of Safety

We are surrounded by proselytizers for the Gospel of Safety. They use fear tactics to get us to accept the message. They condemn us for the sin of  omission (not adhering to safe practices) and the sin of commission (using unsafe products). They urge us to try to control all circumstances to assure that we and our loved ones are secure.
The Message
The proselytizers subtly stir up fear as they advocate for gun safety, carbon monoxide detectors, dolphin-safe tuna, a secure internet, GPS on 1st-graders' cell phones and protection by armed security guards (who use their guns safely.) According to the Gospel of Safety, we should avoid icy roads, the sun, risky investments, cosmetics tested on animals and bacon.

If we do feel safe enough to leave our houses, we can join the Adult Safe Hockey League. This is a version of a sport known for brawling and knocking out front teeth that is supposedly tamed by safety.
If something goes wrong in our quest, we need to be prepared. In case someone slips up or loses control of circumstances, she needs numerous lawyers or plenty of insurance or both, just to be safe.
The Distortion
For those who reject the Christian gospel, personal safety is becoming one of the last measures of morality. In this view, man has power to make and keep his own rules. For example, some people who see nothing morally wrong with promiscuous relationships view failure to practice safe sex as unconscionable.

Much of the Gospel of Safety can be an attempt to outsmart or manipulate God by taking control of our own destinies. It seems to say that, with some effort, we can avoid messy circumstances, especially death and hell. For example, self-righteous safety seekers may postulate that someone with a terminal illness probably didn't eat "right" or exercise enough.

The Caution
As Christians, we know that living in a fallen world can be scary. However, we must not let our strong desire for personal safety get in the way of godly obedience.

God is king. He makes well-being and creates calamity (Isaiah 45:7). But, in His goodness, He will never guide His people to a place or circumstance that is out of His control.

When we trust God, He may call us to go somewhere or to do some thing that is risky. People may threaten us for speaking the truth.  Our place of service may be war-torn. We might encounter unfamiliar food, aggressive drivers, humidity or unending snow. There might not be any child-safe caps on the medicine or seat belts or smoke alarms. In serving Him, we find that God's ways are much greater than the path to personal safety.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis gives us a beautiful picture of the great lion Aslan, who is a type of Christ. One of the children asks Mr. Beaver if he is safe. "‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.’"



  1. I think, often, people rest in the Gospel of Safety because they want a guaranteed outcome. If I do x and y, then I will be sure to get z. Recently, I have been meditating on the truth that the guaranteed outcomes in God's kingdom never rest on me, and they always and only rest on Him. What freedom and (true) safety!

  2. Wow, this is a great article, and I think that I often idolize safety and security out of a desire for control. I do have a few questions about this topic. How do you determine if you are being prudent or if you are being fearful? For example, I am contemplating overseas ministry, and in thinking about crossing cultures, I often get stuck thinking about if my body can handle a particular region. Some of that is worry and some of that is because I have asthma and don't function in cold climates. In other words, I have trouble understanding service, sacrifice, and obedience. I don't want to serve God for the means of His approval, because I know that I am justified only in Christ, but I do want to "trust and obey" because I do believe there is "no other way to be happy in Jesus" and I want to obey God. I know that God is more concerned about my holiness than my geographical location, but at the same time I want to trust Him enough to take risks. I'm sorry this is a loaded question, but your blog touched what's been on my heart lately.

  3. Mary Kate, I commend you for thinking seriously about pleasing God. I didn't have room in the blog posting to say that God wants us to use our God-given reasoning abilities to be good stewards of our lives. For example, He doesn't want us to step in front of a speeding car to test Him. Foolishness is never commended in the Bible.
    On the other hand, we shouldn't make an idol out of personal safety. God doesn't want us to put conditions on Him. For instance, we don't have the luxury of saying, "I will obey you in this commandment only if xyz happens." Or, "I will only go to a mission field where I speak the language, I have all my creature comforts around me and the people look just like me."
    Sacrifices need to be made in ministry, but they are nothing compared to the sacrifice of Christ for us. In addition, a missions agency seeks to send people to places that are a good fit for them. For example, they would not send a diabetic to a country where she could not obtain the insulin she needs.
    Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you are on the right track. Patsy

  4. Boys and yound men, in particular, need to be tested. They are wired for adventure. If not given healthy outlets, they will find unhealthy ones. Outdoors adventures, especially with older, more experienced men are a means for the younger ones to be drawn out of their comfort zones and learn to build confidence in themselves and trust in others. Life is full of challenges - some that seem they will overwhelm us. If we are tested beyond our comfort zone and make it through - that helps later when life throws something hard at us. I often half-joke that I think young men need to fear for their lives at least once a year. It is good for them. Measured risks teach us that we can wander outside the boundaries - or even lose sight of them and "make it out alive" to borrow a phrase from Bear Grylls. Swede


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