Are you seeking a faith that will keep you safe from the world? A God who will protect you from all of the bad things out there? Perhaps you are looking for a faith that puts your happiness above all other things, or one that promises riches, power and health in accordance with the amount of faith you have?
If these are things you are seeking from a faith, let me tell you…
Christianity is not the faith for you.
Christinity is not easy.
Christianity will not keep you safe.
God will not make you happy, nor will God give you things in measure to your faith.
This is not how it works.
Over the past few months, as the ocnversations about immigrants and refugees have gotten louder and more vitriolic, as conversations about our neighbors at home and abroad have led to some Christians reaching out and some calling to build walls, over and over again I have heard people of faith say, “We just want to be safe.” “This is about safety.” “We can let in refugees, but only the safe ones.”
These are likely similar to the thoughts the priest and the Levite had while walking past the man on the side of the road, dying from his injuries. They just wanted to be safe, to be pure, to be clean. But the one that Jesus lifts up is the one who risked his own safety to help a stranger – a stranger who might be faking it, a stranger who might be unsafe.
The Christian faith is a difficult faith. We are called by Jesus Christ to follow in his footsteps, yet is seems that most people who call themselves followers of Christ skip past the crucifixion to the resurrection. They skip past the pain and sacrifice and focus on the glory. There has long been this strain in Christianity. But as of late it has gotten louder. The (already warped) conversation that used to center on personal salvation in the hereafter has somehow warped (further) to center the Christian narrative around the individual’s personal safety & satisfaction in this life alongside salvation in the life to come. This is the American version of the gospel. Individual salvation. Individual safety. A God fearing life that overflows with rewards for good behavior. In this version of the gospel, the rewards go to those who live their best life, who work hard, & who follow the rules. The poor, the infirm, the mentally ill, the stranger, anyone who doesn’t fit or anyone who didn’t start out with the same things I started out with be damned. This isn’t about you. Jesus loves ME.
This is not the gospel. There is no good news in this. There is no redemption, no radical reorientation of the world. Just a sustaining of things as they have been, a holding up of this so that it things will always be this way.
The gospel commands risk. The gospel is not safe. The Good News is not comfortable for many of us. Jesus calls us to be unsafe.
Christ says, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”
Christ says, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Christ says, “Give up all you have and follow me.”
What does it look like to follow Christ? It looks like hanging out with the undesirables of the world – in his time, the tax collectors, criminals, prostitutes, the mentally ill. In our time this might be the undocumented, criminals, prostitutes, members of the LGBTQ community, people who have HIV, the homeless, and the many other people our society pushes to the margins. It looks like breaking rules of propriety and breaking down walls to show love to those society has deemed unworthy of love. It looks like caring for the least of these, wherever you are, however you can, without concern for safety, without interest in your own personal gain, without regard for your own personal happiness.
The God of Safety is a false God. This is not the God of the Bible, it is a golden calf, a thing invented by us to make us feel good – to make us feel as though when we put worries about our own safety first, we are doing the right thing.
But this is never something God promises.
This is never something God asks of us.
God never says, “Stay safe.”
God says, over and over again, “Pick up your cross and follow me.”
And on that path, before we reach glory, we come face to face with pain, with sacrifice, with death.
There is no getting around that.
Jesus points us to the cross, which is standing right in the middle of the path to glory.
We cannot honestly follow Jesus and stay safe at the same time. Jesus commands us out of our homes, and churches into the streets, into the places where the hurting, diseased and dangerous dwell. Jesus commands us to tear down our walls and open our arms to the suffering, to hear the stories of the displaced and dispossessed and to have our hearts broken open again and again by the pain of others.
The road to the resurrection is filled with danger, pain and sacrifice.
And we make the road by walking.
Rev. Elizabeth Rawlings is the Lutheran pastor for The Sanctuary, a Lutheran Episcopal Ministry to the University of Washington. She enjoys disrupting things and creating community, aspires to read more and play video games less. Her call caring for students in these times gives her life. Rev. Elizabeth blogs at feetinarmsout.wordpress.com & she is helping her students practice radical self-love this Lent through meditations that can be found at www.sanctuaryuw.org.