There has been a lot of talk of “safe spaces” in the news and online. Everyone is looking for a space to go where they can shield themselves from the stresses of this world and the persecution of disagreement. The one group of people who are the best at creating safe spaces must be Christians. Christians create these special little safe spaces called “churches” surrounded by like-minded people called “Christians”. Heaven forbid if someone enter the safe space who says something different because that might cause us to actually have to defend our beliefs and act somewhat boldly.
With all that said, God talks a lot about allowing Him to take our burdens. Is sounds like God is offering us a safe space. How does that work?
Yes, God Promises Safe Spaces
God offers rest from the weight of sin. In a way, God is the ultimate safe space because He offers the only shelter from which Satan can not attack. In Matthew, we read of the burden we take on when we unite with Christ.
“My Father has handed over everything to me. Indeed, no one fully knows the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:27-30)
It’s important to note which exactly it means to take on a ‘yoke’. In Old Testament times and in many areas of the world today, a less experienced ox is yoked with an older, trained ox. In this way, the burden is lightened from the younger ox and they are better able to train and strengthen themselves for the work they will have to perform. By yoking ourselves with Jesus, he is strengthening and training us to live in a world which is not necessarily friendly towards other Christians.
The safe space that Jesus offers is a safe space from the penalty of sin. It doesn’t mean we won’t be tempted or won’t be impacted by the ill results of the sins of others, but it does mean that the much heavier burden of enslavement to sin has been lifted for a far lighter yoke of grace.
No, God Promises No Safe Spaces
There are a lot of preachers out there who like to pretend that if you have faith, God will give you a ‘good’ life, at least within some understanding of how the world defines ‘good’. This sounds nice and attracts a lot of followers, but it is totally against what Christ tells us.
Then to everyone he said, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him say ‘No’ to himself, take up his execution-stake daily and keep following me. For whoever tries to save his own life will destroy it, but whoever destroys his life on my account will save it. What will it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but destroys or forfeits his own life? For if someone is ashamed of me and of what I say, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)
What we see in Luke is that Christ tells all his followers that they must be willing, for some to even expect, to be persecuted for their beliefs. It’s not a stretch to say that most, if not all, Christians will face some moderate level of persecution in their lives. This persecution may just be mild mockery or ridicule by those who don’t understand what Christ freely gives or it may be something far more physical. Persecution comes in many shapes and sizes.
Christ doesn’t promise safety, he promises freedom. Freedom and safety aren’t the same thing though we often use both ideas in a similar context. The good news is that through the boldness of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to face whatever un-safe spaces we may find. Recall in Acts when Stephen found himself facing ridicule in the midst of the religious leaders.
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusations, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing I the place of honor at God’s right hand!” (Acts 7:54-56)
Stephen faced the most unsafe of unsafe spaces. Despite knowing that he physical end might be near, his yoke was lightened by the encouragement he received from the Holy Spirit. This isn’t just a pretty story. When we allow our souls to be emboldened by the Holy Spirit, we can also receive the lightened yoke of grace and have the strength so that as we walk through our unsafe spaces throughout this lifetime, we would know that we are not alone.