One of my favorite radio stations plays Christian contemporary music 24-7. The only place I have it on is in the car, but then again, these days, it feels like I pretty much live in the car.
When I’m driving the kids to soccer or Scouts or whatever, I like knowing I won’t hear suggestive or even lewd lyrics.
In fact, I heard one station advertise that it is “safe” for anyone to listen to. What they mean, of course, is that you don’t have to worry about hearing offensive or explicit lyrics, or foul-mouthed disc jockeys. Just uplifting music.
I’m glad that type of station is available. But that whole idea of “safe” really got me thinking. Is safe what the Christian life is supposed to be about? If we are saved, does that mean we need to try to stay “safe”? Should “safety” be what we strive for?
After all, the message of salvation is a dangerous one. If I take the gospel seriously, I will not only receive from God his comfort, but his challenge. Lately, he’s been calling me to stretch my faith by obeying him in ways that feel anything but safe.
I want to protect my children from certain aspects of our culture, but I want to encourage them to grow in faith by taking steps that may feel risky, but are clearly what God is calling them to.
As I listen to Christian music, I am becoming aware that the “safe” songs, if we take them seriously, have a hidden danger.
For example, songs that proclaim “God is in control,” that can be safe and comforting. Except that it implies that I am not the one in control, which can be very disconcerting and require me to grow in trusting him.
Here’s another dangerous lyric I heard recently: “We will abandon it all, for the sake of the call.” If I take those words seriously, I’ll be putting God’s call on my life before my own agenda, and that doesn’t feel very safe. Instead, I feel uncertain and a little nervous. But trusting him when I don’t feel “safe” helps my faith to grow.
What about these lyrics: “Step by step you’ll lead me, and I will follow you all of my days.” What if he leads us somewhere we don’t think we want to go? While we are ultimately safe in God’s care, he may call us to take risks for him, to be more obedient to him. To me, it feels a little dangerous to say I’ll follow.
These are “safe” lyrics because they don’t contain explicit or vulgar messages. But they are not “safe” in terms of living a comfortable life.
But God does not call us to be comfortable, usually. He calls me to trust, and if I don’t take any risks, then I’m not really growing in trust. That is, I don’t get the chance to see how really trustworthy God is. If I listen carefully, God will call me to do things that I could never do on my own. He’s calling me to take risks, to face challenges that, when I tackle them with his help, will help me grow. Sometimes I hear what he’s saying, and obey him. But unfortunately, other times I just forget to pay attention.
Today, I had a conversation with a friend who told me she has stopped going to church. Despite the fact that I used to be her small group leader, I didn’t ask her how her faith is doing, or even if she still believes. I invited her to come to church with me sometime, and when she said maybe, I didn’t push it. I didn’t take much of a risk. I stayed safe. And I missed a chance to grow, and perhaps, to help her grow.
But when I start listening to what God is calling me to, through song lyrics or gentle promptings, I realize that staying safe is not as important as growing my faith through obedience, even when it feels very risky and unsafe.
In C.S. Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are describing Aslan the Lion (the Christ figure in the story) and how creatures revere and fear him.
“ ‘Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘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.’ ”
And of course, the story shows us a truth. Christ is good, but he’s not always safe. He’s likely to, if we listen, challenge us to do things we could never do without his help. That’s faith defined.
Maybe you are at the beginning of your spiritual journey and trying to decide if you can really trust God. He’s good, he’s trustworthy. But if you trust him, it will change your life.
And if it wasn’t going to change your life, why bother? Who would want to fall in love with Jesus if it wasn’t going to change your life forever?
Maybe you believe in him but you are at a place where you just want to be comfortable and safe. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back 50 years from now when I am 90 (longevity runs in my family!) and say, “Boy, what a life. I covered my butt the whole time and took as few risks as possible. And I stayed safe.”
No thanks. I want to pay attention, listen closely, and dare to follow the One who may not be safe, but is always good.