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The Christian Life Is Not Safe
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 11:47am
This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast (another of our new, shorter episodes) has me discussing the Christian life being safe—too safe. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player.
A couple of months ago I worked with a graphic designer to put together an infographic that would display the attributes of God. Putting it together was far more worship than work as I looked to the Bible to see what God tells us about himself, about who he is and what he’s like. Each one of those attributes is worthy of a study because each one is part of an answer to questions like this: Who is this God who has forgiven me for my sin? What is this God like?
He is free, he is holy, he is wise, he is true, he is immutable. All that and so much more. Conspicuously absent from that list of attributes is safe. The Bible says nothing about our God being a safe God. But that is okay, because he is good.
I suppose I’m not allowed to pick favorites, but one of the attributes I find most comforting is God’s goodness. God is good, which means that he is the source of all good, he is the standard of all good, and he is only and ever and always good. That’s an awesome thing to know and believe, even if it can be hard at times to apply it.
This week I’ve been asked to speak on “safe,” or “the Christian life is not safe.” So why do I go straight to goodness? Because the Christian life truly isn’t safe, but that’s okay because our God is good and he would never ask us or command us to do anything that is in any way bad for us. I don’t just mean sinful—of course God will never lead us to sin. But he also won’t lead us to do anything that is less than what is best for us.
I think C.S. Lewis got it right with this little bit of dialog from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver is trying to describe the attributes of Aslan, the book’s Christ-like character. Concerned that Aslan is a Lion, Susan jumps in and asks “Is he—quite safe?” “Safe?” Mr. Beaver says. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Our God isn’t safe, but he is good. Why then do so many of us live such safe lives? God’s attributes describe who he is, but in many cases they also describe what we are to be. Most theologians suggest that God’s attributes come in two forms: communicable and incommunicable. The attributes that are incommunicable are God’s alone—he cannot and will not communicate them to any other being. You and I will never be eternal, we will never be omnipresent. But most of God’s attributes are communicable—he gives them to us and we are right to pursue them. God is loving, so we are to be loving. God is merciful, so we are to extend mercy. And God is good so we, too, are to be good.
But God is not safe, so why is it that we value our safety so highly? We tend to value it above just about everything else. This isn’t just physical safety—the kind of thing that keeps us inventing and wearing seatbelts and the kind of thing that keeps us locking our doors at night. This is safety that keeps us from going outside our comfort zones, from refusing to do the difficult things that take us beyond what we are comfortable with.
So we give to the Lord a safe amount of money instead of an amount that is extravagant. Our giving to the Lord is just another budget item. We share the gospel carefully or passively, but without bringing it to the people who scare us or intimidate us. We praise the people who throw safety aside and who plunge into war-torn countries or who move to the difficult parts of the city. But it doesn’t do a whole lot to change our lives.
Reading the gospels can be intimidating, especially in those places that Jesus is speaking to unbelievers and telling them what it will cost them to follow him. We have to count our lives as nothing; we have to be willing to love him so much that the way we love family and friends looks like hate by contrast; we have to be willing to sell everything we have, offering ourselves up completely. That’s not safe and to most people it doesn’t sound good.
We who know the Lord have accepted all of this. We have agreed that our lives are dedicated to him. We have agreed that our health and safety is less important than his glory. We know this in our heads, but we have trouble translating it to our lives.
I am convinced that this failure to live comes from a failure to believe, from a conflict between our desire for safety and what God says about his own goodness. The fact is that everything that happens in your life, no matter how incomprehensible it may seem, it all happens for a reason, a good reason. All of it has been designed, lovingly crafted, to bring good to you and glory to God. This includes the difficult things as much as the good things, the things we don’t like as much as the things we love.
The antidote to a safe life is a firm and growing trust in God’s goodness. The Bible is full of promises to those who follow Christ, promises like this one: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God asks for an all-encompassing kind of commitment. He asks for everything, but he promises even more. He isn’t safe, but he is good.
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