Safety or Significance
Trading in the Promise of Significance for a Lie
Fifteen years ago I woke up on a normal Tuesday morning and turned on the TV as I got ready for work. What I saw was unbelievable. Iconic buildings burning. People trapped. A plane, no, two planes, commercial planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. As the day progressed and the story developed, the buildings collapsed, the world was changed.
Everybody old enough to remember the events of 9/11 recalls where they were that dreadful day. Everybody old enough can tell you how that horrifying day affected them.
The effect for me of that day was a little different; a deep sadness that transcended the terrorist attacks. A sadness and confusion that flowed from the voices of many people of faith. Not the voicing of shock — they were appropriately shocked and appalled like everybody was. Not in the expressions of grief as they mourned the horrific loss. What affected me, beyond those shared emotions, was how person after person described how that dark Tuesday changed the way they viewed their lives, their day-to-day outlook, their sense of security, hope and peace.
I repeatedly heard the same question, often with deep despair: “How can I ever feel secure?” “All of those people went to work like any other day, but didn’t come home.” “How can I ever feel secure again, anything can happen now.”
What surprised and saddened me was not that people had their sense of security rocked, that’s understandable. I was shocked however by how universally people — including people of faith — spoke of the attacks of 9/11, and still do today, as having instantaneously shifted reality. In a moment, we had collectively moved from a reality of safety and security to one of precariousness and insecurity. Everything had changed.
But had it? Had we really shifted in that moment from safety to danger, from certainty and predictability to chaos? No, not at all. What really happened was that the illusion of safety and security had been exposed. Before 9/11 and after 9/11 people went to work expecting to come home and some did not. Accidents, medical emergencies, natural disasters, violence — there was no guarantee.
On 9/11, the guarantee of safety was revealed to be a myth, which exposed the bigger and more dangerous myth that God wants you safe. God wants you comfortable. God wants you to be happy.
For years we have preached a false gospel, a gospel of security, which is a lie. Sadly, when the light of truth was shined on this lie fifteen years ago, so many followers of Jesus did not embrace the truth but doubled down on the lie, thinking that the answer to their angst was found in more safety, more security. Rather than exposing the myth of safety as the fraud that it is, much of the church has moved more fully into the myth of God-ordained security.
The reality is God has never promised safety and security. Jesus came as the Kingdom bringer and his mission was a dangerous, literally revolutionary! It is one that upset the status quo. If you have not seen that part of Jesus you have missed Jesus. It definitely was not a mission of safety. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” he was not inviting people into security, but away from it. His invitation was not to safety but to significance. And his invitation has not changed. Jesus is still inviting us to significance. God’s will for us is not about comfort, but about contribution. God will never choose safety over significance because he created us for a purpose and an impact; created for a life of meaning.
Jesus says, “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10) How big are your dreams? What is the “good life”? What does significance look like to you? Do you have a cause or a call that you would be willing to risk your life for? The attacks of 9/11 cost nearly 3,000 lives. Truly a great tragedy, but one that so often lays hidden is that so many of us lay our gift of significance on the false altar of safety and tragically lose the life we were meant to live.
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