“Stay safe!” Really?

It is Labor Day here in the U.S., which doesn’t necessarily mean we celebrate (or even remember) the important role of “workers” in our society. For most people it is simply “another three day weekend”—complete with “sobriety checkpoints” and the oft-repeated encouragement “Stay safe!” Is that really an encouragement we should adopt? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for driving safely and being alert for those whose driving is erratic or dangerous. I even welcome prayers for “traveling mercies” and to “keep him safe on the road” when I drive. My con3114-danger-hazardous-area-do-not-entercern is for those who think “Stay safe” is part of the Way of Jesus!

I’m not sure exactly where this happened in our corporate thinking, but “safe” is not a good descriptor of the Jesus Way. Yet, much of what we do or encourage of others is focused in our “safety.” This thinking is very . . . motherly, but it is not Scriptural! Think about the life of Jesus, from the beginning it was fraught with danger! When His mother Mary was “great with child”—well into her ninth month–she had to travel for days on a donkey and give birth surrounded by animals. These were not ideal conditions for a healthy birth even in the first century. Before Jesus was two years old his family fled to Egypt to avoid slaughter (all the other little boys in Bethlehem were killed). During the three years of his public ministry He “escaped” several times from those who sought to kill him, often traveled to a different place (or to a remote place) because the religious leaders wanted him dead, and He repeatedly spoke to the twelve of how  He would be seized, beaten, killed, and in three days rise out from among the dead (we have no record of Him ever speaking of His crucifixion without also speaking of His resurrection). Imagine looking that Jesus in the eye and saying “Stay safe!” You’ve got to be kidding!

“Stay safe” was similarly foreign to His early followers—think of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, where (after their release) they join with other believers and pray for boldness to continue speaking and acting; Stephen speaks boldly and is killed by stoning; Peter continues to speak and is jailed again (and released by an angel in response to prayer by the body) around the same time James the brother of John was killed with a sword at the command of Herod; and Paul “beaten three times with rods, imprisoned often, shipwrecked three times (before the one off Malta), in peril in the country, in peril in the city, in peril . . . often. “Stay safe?”

In fact, my thoughts went in this direction because of something Paul says, over in Acts 20:22 (while talking with the elders of the Church of Ephesus). He says the Spirit is “compelling” him to go to Jerusalem and telling him in every city that “bonds and afflictions” await him there. Sounds like Jesus. And, like Jesus, Paul says: “What matters most to me is to finish what God started; the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.” Such is the attitude produced by His Spirit in those who know they have already been crucified with Christ, whose life is not their own, and through whom the Risen Jesus lives. May it be true of me. I pray it will be true of you, too.

So, if you’ll be on the road today, drive safely. But in the balance of your life, follow Jesus, live in the Way of Jesus— speak when and what He wants you to speak, allow Him to touch those in need through your hands; embrace danger, boldly go where the Holy Spirit leads, fulfill the work the Master—King Jesus—has given you.

Enjoy Him. He enjoys you.

John