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Aug 15, 2010

Are You a Safe Man?

When others describe you as a man, would they characterize you as safe? Is safe a word typically used to describe you? Do you think of yourself as safe? For that matter, should a man of God strive to be safe?

The answers to these questions probably depend on our definition of the word safe. If we define safe as dependable or trustworthy, then yes, we would certainly want to be safe. Any Christian man should be dependable, able to be counted on, and reliable. And all Christian men should be trustworthy and honest, a man of their word, letting their yes be yes and their no be no.

And of course, men should be safe in the sense of not being a danger or threat to their own family. I hope I don’t even have to address the issue of child or spouse abuse here because I doubt any coward prone to these crimes will be interested in reading this article. Still, any real man will obviously not only be safe himself, but provide a source of safety to those under his care.

But safe can also be defined as free from or carefully avoiding danger, risk, or controversy. A man who is always safe is no danger or threat to anyone or anything, no matter how much of a danger or threat is posed to him or to those under his protection.  A man playing it safe will avoid risk at all costs, even when risking it or stepping out in faith is exactly what he is being called to do.  A safe man will also avoid controversy, chosing instead to go with the flow, keep his mouth shut, and mind his own business.  But is this really what we want in a man?  Is this what a godly man should always strive to be?  Despite what may be encouraged in men today, I don’t think a man being safe is always what’s called for.

After all, Jesus, our model as the perfect man, was not always safe, at least not to his enemies and those who opposed him. Jesus challenged and threatened the wrong-minded religious leaders of his time, those leading others astray and away from God. Jesus battled spiritually with demons and Satan himself, handily defeating them and causing them to flee in fear. And let’s not forget that Christ was arrested, tried, and crucified because of his perceived threat to both the religious establishment as well as the Roman government.

Christ’s disciples followed suit themselves, continuing the spiritual battle throughout Israel and into the rest of the world. They risked every kind of danger in carrying out the mission they were left. Eventually every apostle and many other followers of Jesus found the same fate as their Savior and were persecuted not because they were too safe, but because they were not afraid of the danger, risk, and controversy in faithfully spreading the Gospel.

Maybe in our modern, mostly free society, we don’t have to risk arrest and execution to preach the Gospel, as believers did in the first century church – and as other Christians elsewhere in the world still do even today. So for us, what’s wrong with being too safe? Can this ever be a bad thing for a Christian man? Is being safe ever a vice rather than a virtue? When action and courage and risking yourself is what’s needed, then yes, being safe can be wrong.

I would hope that a would-be mugger would not look at you as a safe mark while you’re walking through the city with your girlfriend. Heaven help anyone who breaks into my home and threatens my family. Should a man’s wife think of him as so nice and “safe” that she shows him no respect and feels free to do whatever she wants without deference to his leadership? And my 12-yeard old step-daughter already knows that when she’s eventually allowed to date, any young man who doesn’t treat her with the utmost respect and honor will have to answer to me, and that I’m not entirely safe. Finally, when faced with defending their faith, a real man of God will not play it safe, avoiding danger, risk, or controversy, but rather will boldly proclaim the truth in the spirit of Peter, Stephen, and Paul.

Even God, who is called our safe haven, our salvation, and our protector, is not safe for all men. Look carefully at the often quoted Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
The Lord is indeed a strong tower, a source of safety – but only to the righteous, those He has graciously called to salvation. The unrighteous, or more precisely, the unrepentant and unsaved, would be foolish to look upon the Holy God as safe. They would be better off to go read Edward’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

In emasculating and taming these wild creatures we call men, society (and sometimes even the church) has encouraged men to be safe, polite, passive, and non-confrontational over any other qualities. Yet a man of God, in the model of Christ and his fearless disciples, should probably put more focus on being righteous, bold, brave, and engaged. And at least sometimes, in situations which call for it, men of God even need to be dangerous. We should be so courageous, so dedicated to protecting our families, and so committed to glorifying God and protecting his holy name, that anyone who threatens our loved ones or dishonors our Lord should expect a response from us that is anything but safe.

What I just spent a whole article trying to explain was once summed up in only two lines by a much more gifted author. In C.S. Lewis’ classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the question is raised about Aslan the lion king, who is the archtype of Christ in the story. The question is asked whether he is safe. The beaver answers almost indignantly, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” Could the same be said of you?  As sons of Adam and follows of Christ, let’s focus today on being good men more than just safe men.

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