American Christians like being safe, but they don’t like being safe.
They like being protected physically, legally, and emotionally, but they don’t want to offer those things to others. Don’t believe me? Look at non-white, non-Christian, non-straight, non-American, non-mainstream cultures. How safe has Christianity made them?
And that saddens me because while Christianity is NOT supposed to be safe in the traditional sense (Jesus said it would be quite dangerous to life and limb–Matthew 10 among others), but it IS supposed to be safe in the context I just listed.
Thus, I’ve decided to make a new slogan for myself and I hope you’ll adopt it, too. I am S.A.F.E.
You can come to me without fear of judgment or gossip.
I can’t say I’ll always agree with you and I’m entitled to my opinion, too, but I’ll never throw a Bible at your noggin and call you a dirty rotten sinner and hope that you burn in hell for it. I don’t want to push you away. I want to bring you in. I want to listen to your story, no matter how deviant or unpleasant–heck, I’ve probably heard, seen, or done worse! Jesus said, “…whoever comes to me, I will never cast him out” (John 6:37b). God is not some cruel dictator with a lightning bolt cocked and ready, so neither will I be.
Also, I won’t share stories which may shame you. I won’t blab your sins to my small group and call it “prayer.” The only exception being if someone is in danger.
Of course I’ll try to share the gospel with you; I think it’s awesome and I want everybody to experience it. But I’m far too imperfect to not give others grace.
I will care about you.
It’s one thing to listen and tolerate, it’s another thing to love. I don’t just want to be a priest in a box talking through a veil. I want to clank glasses at the bar (mine will have soda because I hate the taste of alcohol, but still…). I want to be friends as best we can be. Our lifestyles may not match up, and it’s impossible to be BFFs with everyone, but I promise to care, not dehumanize you by labeling you as a problem to be solved or one of “those people” who need to stay on that side of the line.
Jesus showed compassion to the adulteress (John 8), multiple blind men and demoniacs, even a simple newlywed couple (John 2). People weren’t just numbers or labels to him. They were his children.
That makes you my brothers and sisters, and I mean to give a damn.
I will fight for your humanity.
Continuing the escalation, caring means standing up against oppression. Jesus came to break oppression and bondage (Isaiah 58:6). Once more, I’m not going to agree with everything you say or do and I can’t fight every legal and social battle, nor am I some miracle worker who can fix broken systems with a finger snap, but I promise to defend your humanity.
No, you shouldn’t dress like that, but the rape was his fault, not yours. I don’t think women should sell their bodies, but when a client abuses her, he’s on my shit list, not her. When an unarmed black man is shot without cause, I won’t just assume he was breaking the law and go about my merry way; I’ll call it out! Muslims worship a different God than I do, but I will never ever call for their registration because it reduces them to second-class citizens and there are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom (Galatians 3:28) and I want all in God’s kingdom.
This brings me to my last point.
Every race, every orientation, every religion, every socioeconomic status, every gender, ev-ry-one.
I believe there is only one God and that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation and heaven, but I will not seek and destroy those who don’t because it’s not what Jesus did. He sought them out to lift them up and bring them new life. He only destroyed the proud religious people of his day. I am also a white, straight, cis, late-twenties male with a roof over my head. I also know that none of these adjectives gives me a monopoly on God, nor even on goodness.
Jesus used foreign sinners and oppressors in his examples of goodness. The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:21-37) may be translated “The Good Muslim Priest.” The Romans were oppressors, yet Jesus said an unnamed centurion (Roman police chief) had more faith than Israel (Matthew 8:5-13). Though Nineveh was a wicked, Godless place, God spared them judgment because he cared about them (Book of Jonah).
Jesus said that God so loved the world in John 3:16. The original Greek says he loved the “kosmon.” You know what that word means? It means THE WHOLE FREAKING WORLD! No, I don’t believe that everyone gets an automatic pass into Heaven because God is a wimpy tool who can’t deal with evil. But neither do I believe that certain people should receive special privilege and others shouldn’t merely because of race, status, religion, or any other such qualifier.
Jesus loved outsiders and spent most of his time with them. He told the disciples to continue this tradition to “all nations” (Matt 28:19).
My dream is that when a non-Christian or non-mainstream person is scared or worried or angry, that they can come to the church because the church will give them the love they need, and that the people know it. Know that they don’t have to be perfect to get a little tenderness.
That all Christians would be Secure, Affectionate Fighters for Everyone. Safe.
I’ll go into greater detail for each letter in the following weeks, and I may even write a short book about the whole matter, but this is my starting point. I want to be S.A.F.E. I am far from perfect, but that’s only one more reason to be S.A.F.E.
After all, it’s what God did and still does for me. Who am I to act otherwise?