Guest Post by Jessica Harris (My Daughter)
Today I read through a good portion of the book of Acts in my devotions, and some thoughts that have been percolating in the back of my mind and heart became crystal clear.
I don’t want to live a safe life.
I don’t want my children to grow up to live safe lives.
When did safety become our first priority? It seems to be the most popular word these days.
“This is for your safety.”
“You need to do this for the safety of others.”
“Stay home. Stay safe.”
Yes, safety is an important value. I’ve taught my children to look both ways before they cross the street, to check for cars…so they can cross safely.
I would never advocate skydiving without a parachute. It’s essential for your safety.
I have a very adventurous daughter who has absolutely no fear, and I was just recently accused of being a worrywart for telling her to “Be careful!” while she fearlessly climbed some large rocks. (It may have been the fourth or fifth time that week I had chastised her to “Be safe. Be careful!”)
So please trust me when I say this—I do value safety. (I’d like my daughter to live to see her 7th birthday, and sometimes keeping her alive seems like a full-time job.)
Of course, safety is important. Exercising wisdom in our actions so that we don’t inadvertently harm ourselves or others is absolutely valuable and worthy.
When this COVID-19 thing first hit the news, and we were all asked to stay home and flatten the curve and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed, I stayed home! I washed my hands a bit more vigorously than usual. I was concerned about the safety of my kids, family, and neighbors and did my part.
But somehow over the course of the last couple of months, the narrative has changed. Now we must somehow keep everyone safe, indefinitely, and no matter the cost. Safety has morphed from “being important” to becoming the only and most championed of values during this time.
Yes, safety matters. It does. Please hear me say that.
But it can’t, and I would argue shouldn’t be our most highest of values.
If safety had been Jesus' top priority, he wouldn’t have touched the sick and healed them. (Mark 1:40-42)
If safety had been the early church’s biggest value, they wouldn’t have continued to preach the gospel while they were persecuted, stoned, and imprisoned. (Read the book of Acts!)
For Christians, I don’t believe that it tells us anywhere in the Bible to strive for safety first above all else.
When I read the biblical stories of men and women of faith, I don’t see people living safe, sheltered lives.
I see a young boy David fighting the giant Goliath without a stitch of armor on. (1 Samuel 17)
I see Paul and Silas being beaten and flogged and thrown in prison for preaching the good news of Jesus and casting out demons. (Acts 16)
I could go on and on listing examples of bold, brave, courageous people in the Bible.
But I’ll get to my point.
Safety was not the first priority for them.
Doing God’s will was.
And how were they each able to boldly pursue God’s will, despite facing extreme dangers? How did they courageously live out their God-given mission despite their own safety being at risk?
Because they knew the God of the universe had their back. Because they valued doing His will and sharing His message more than their own lives. Sacrifice was a higher priority to them than safety. Obedience to God’s call was a much greater value than living a safe life.
Sacrifice. Obedience. Courage.
I want to have more of these in my life.
I want my children to grow up valuing these things more than safety.
My dad is a pastor of a church in a county that now has government permission to “open up” and have services in their building again. He and his staff have gone above and beyond to make this happen with concern for people’s safety and following all the recommended guidelines.
Safety is very important to them. Is it a bit of a risk to open their doors now, with contagious COVID-19 still looming around? Sure. But they’ve taken the best precautions they can to open safely and are encouraging at-risk individuals to stay home and continue to participate online.
But they are still going to open. Fear of COVID-19 isn’t going to stop them from opening their doors to those that are hungry (and some quite desperate) for fellowship and community.
It deeply saddened me to discover that the church has received emails and phone calls from people declaring that they will leave the church if the doors are opened now.
The church staff has been accused of not caring for people’s lives by taking even the slightest chance of this disease spreading because they are going to “open church.”
“It’s not safe!”
“If you cared about this community, you’d value its safety and stay closed!”
It is because they care about the emotional and spiritual health of their family of faith they are opening.
It is because of the needs of the community around them that they are courageously pursuing the mission that God has given them.
It is because they value lives that they are obeying God (and I might add, obeying the government too) and are “opening church” as safely as they possibly can.
You have the right to disagree with me. (Though please share your opinions with kindness and love. It’s OK for us to disagree, but discord is not OK.)
You have the right to cling to your safety as tightly as you choose. Really, you do.
I won’t stop you. And I will love you no matter what and show you kindness even if you flat out think I’m crazy for saying all of this.
But please don’t judge or try to stop those of us who choose to value sacrifice above our own safety. Obedience above complacency. Courage and faith over fear.
If I had a neighbor with COVID-19, and they asked me to physically lay hands on them and pray for them, I’d do it without hesitation. Jesus laid his hands on the sick. He knew God was bigger than their illness. God is bigger than COVID-19.
I choose faith.
I choose sacrifice.
I choose obedience.
I want to get to the end of my life and have people say, “Wow! She lived so courageously for Jesus!”
I want my kids to fearlessly pursue whatever calling God has for their lives and to bravely love and serve others with great sacrifice.
I have no desire to hear people comment on what a safe life I lived.
Safety, yes. But safety first? No. Not for me and my family.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
May 29, 2020