“Stay safe” seems to be a byword these days in our COVID-19 culture; an expression of good heartedness to “be well” in these crazy times. However, could this also mean a collectively ready adaptation to stay at home and keep socially distant according to governmental guidelines or requirements? Admittedly, I was drawn in.
Although there is the good desire is to join in the unified attempt to work together in fighting a potentially deadly disease, would it also be good to pay attention to a subtle changeover from a Christian world-view to a secular one? In other words, is our concern more tightly focused on staying “safe” to keep life rather than a willingness to sacrifice at the risk of losing it? Put another way, as Christians (and especially the Church) is our focus becoming more “Safety First” than “Seek First?”
Of course we are instructed by the Apostle Paul, Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities… (Romans 13:1). It seems pretty clear that we are not to ignore or neglect what is given us by those ordained to lead, for the sake of the common good. Still are we at risk of thinking more of our common good than what the Lord says is good? After all, only the Father is “good.” Of the Father’s kingdom, Jesus says that we must, seek first his kingdom and righteousness… (Matthew 6:33).
Think about it, when is it truly “safe” to follow Christ as a Christian? All over this earth, where is it really considered to be “safe” as the Church? Indeed, according to Mr. Beaver when asked of Aslan (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis) he replied, ”Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” After all, Jesus robustly challenged his disciples with If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24). That doesn’t sound safe to me.
Every day there are the many first responders (police, fire, and rescue) as well as medical staff who sacrificially go into situations that are knowingly not safe, for the purpose of helping those who cannot help themselves. They certainly can’t easily “stay safe.” Neither should we.
This is not a call to be rebellious or reckless. It is a call to be selfless.
So, when it comes to reopening our churches, our first thought should not be “How can we keep everyone safe?” Nor as disciples of Christ (Christians) should we ask of our churches, “Is it safe to return?” Our first thought should be, “When can I return to what God has asked of me?” The question remains, what is right to do, not what is safe to do.
Personally I feel that it is responsible for the leadership of a church to seek to be respectful to governmental guidelines about appropriate management of places or spaces of worship where people gather. As well, there should be a certain sensitivity to those more vulnerable who are unable to protect themselves. However, our first thought must be to what Father asks of us. In other words, what God says should be of greater importance than what Government says – The Word over a word.
What is your first thought about reopening? And what will be your first action? Will it be “safety first” or “seek first?” Such has really got me thinking.