In a dialogue between Lucy and the Beavers in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr Beaver responds to the little girl's inquiry about the safety of Aslan, a powerful lion who symbolises Jesus.
""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."" Our culture, with the Church often following it, is obsessed with safety because it has lost sight of God's goodness.
An Unsafe World
The new bike path by my house has a proliferation of markings before and after every rise, multi-coloured give way signs, symbols and arrows for bikes and pedestrians and so on for safety. Once nearly all children made their own way to school, but a mostly irrational fear of sexual predators on the street now largely prevents this.
Today every public meeting has a compulsory notice about the location of safety exits, and I could not but notice how the Health and Safety section of the Australian Electoral Commission handbook, for which I worked at the recent elections, is the most detailed part of the document.
The Brexit vote, the Trump phenomenon and the resurrection of One Nation in Aussie politics are sure signs that people don't feel safe in their own country. Government TV segments about terrorism continually fuel such sentiments. Some U.S. universities even have "safe zones" to soothe students; with cookies, colouring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and videos of puppies.
This is surely ridiculous but the state of mind of many Christians removes our authority to criticise.
When I saw the Liberal Democrats campaign ads on television focussing on an end to "political correctness", and explicitly mentioning people don't feel safe to speak their minds for fear of causing offence, I immediately thought about the numerous emails I have been receiving from Christian organisations warning us of the dramas to come.
Whilst I believe things are going to get harder for the followers of Jesus in Australia this should not scare us. "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled," (First letter of Peter, chapter 3 verse 14). Christians should not be afraid of the consequences of being offensive for Christ. However, sharing the common cultural obsession with safety has blindsided the Church from following Jesus in deeper ways.
The drive for safety that a worldly consciousness brings is incompatible with a sense of divine love. If the perfect love of God casts out this worldly fear then this worldly fear drives out the presence of the love of God (First letter of John, chapter 4 verse 18).
In many ways the modern Church has things back to front keeping its members like spiritual infants (Hebrews chapter 5 verse 12). Israel was instructed by God, "'Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.'" (Deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 10).
When the Anglicans in NSW last year removed religious instruction materials that taught Year 9 students they should "die for their faith if necessary" they were politically expedient; but how should the Church internally respond to anti-Christ forces?
My Coptic Orthodox Christian friends from Egypt where Islamic persecution is a way of life testify that from earliest days the Church teaches its children they live in a world opposed to Christ. Intentionally, nearly all Copts have tattooed on the inside of their right arm a small but visible cross.
A holy fear of a God whose goodness is fully revealed in the cross is the remedy for a troubled Christian conscience in an insecure world. This is the mindset we need to cultivate in the Australian Church today. A faithful Christ-centred consciousness holds us safe from the one thing that ultimately underlies all irrational fears, the wrath of God. From fear of such a judgement Jesus has delivered us (John chapter 1 verse 29).
"Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name." (Psalm 86 verse 11). "we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"" (Hebrews chapter 13 verse 6).
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 5 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
John Yates's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html