Military communities are big on safety. We require our Soldiers to be immunized; motorcycle riders and bicyclists on post must wear a helmet, reflective vests, and other safety gear; we receive safety briefs before every weekend to warn us against the dangers of drinking and driving, weather-related injuries, unprotected sex, domestic abuse, and more. Some units even devote an entire day to brief the Soldiers on safety.
But these briefs are concerned with protecting our bodies that will eventually die no matter how well we guard them. In Matthew 23:25-26 and Luke 6:43-49, Jesus explains that it is more important to guard our hearts, the fountain of all good and bad decisions. Neither physical protection, cleanliness, nor any other external work can keep our hearts safe. God designed us to live inside-out, and if you watch anyone under enough pressure, what’s inside them will come out.
All of us are eventually squeezed when our old nature tempts us. We may lean toward laziness when a friend needs help, or other people may try to push our buttons just to see if we‟re serious about our faith. But be sure of this – the devil looks for exactly the moment to appeal to weaknesses. (1 Peter 5:8) And it’s too late to prepare when we’re under fire.
God has given all of His people specific ways to combat spiritual warfare: His Spirit, His Body (our fellow believers), and His sacraments, but primarily His Word. Let’s look at some of the risks out there, the benefits of safety, and how we can use those principles as reminders of our safety in Christ.
Consider Army units on a group run. When one of the Soldiers upfront sees a pothole in our path, the person running in line with the hole will raise their hand just before they reach it. This signal is passed back like the wave in a sports stadium so no one steps in the hole. In addition to preventing injury, the whole unit benefits by greater esprit de corps. Every Soldier who sees their comrade raising a hand in front of them realizes that he or she is looking out for their safety.
Christians can enjoy the same protection and unity when we lovingly warn a fellow believer against a potential danger. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 12:26, when one part suffers the whole Body suffers with it. The key is to do so lovingly, but even if the person doesn’t respond as you’d like, don’t fret – God still recognizes your action. (Ezekiel 3:18-21)
Or take a look at exercise machines with moving parts or heavy weights. They come with a risk of physical injury – even possible death and, therefore, have explicit warning signs depicting exactly what painful things could happen to exactly what parts of your body. Ouch! The best equipment comes with a note to seek professional instruction before using the machine. Now think of how many Christians come to faith with very little knowledge of Scripture’s warnings against the devil’s schemes to attack us and the injuries that can befall them. (Ephesians 4:27, 1 Timothy 3:7, 2 Timothy 2:26, etc.)
The person most likely to be injured during exercise is the one who tries to work all alone. In similar fashion, in Titus 2, Paul instructs mature believers to mentor younger Christians in how to grow in the life that God has given them. Such relationships not only protect individual believers, they ensure protection for the Body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
For the sake of our spiritual safety in Christ, we must be intentional in this fallen world. For example, playing football on a hot day or hiking a mountain in the cold can be fun, but it also brings risks of dehydration and weather-related injuries. Choosing a playing field with a shady area nearby, bringing a cooler of water, and wearing proper clothing can make the difference between pleasure and unnecessary pain, even death.
When it’s game time, safety requires that we plan ahead and provide the needed resources for athletes so the entire group is empowered with greater focus and energy. Proverbs 6:1-5 says we’re to be most vigilant to guard our relationships, and Proverbs 6:6-11 tells us how – by planning ahead for the spiritually hard times to come, just like the ant for winter.
Because we Soldiers and serious athletes love what we do and want to be “hard”, we often push ourselves through sharp pains (which is different than the dull ache of developing muscles) without saying anything. Even worse, sometimes we tell others to “suck it up and drive on”. That might work for Rambo on film, but real people experience sharp pains as a God-given sign that their body needs serious attention. When we take the time to form ability groups, monitor each other, and triage potential problems, we protect each others’ health, the participation of the group, and the game or mission itself.
Shouldn’t we give individual Christians as much attention for their spiritual health, for their participation in the Body of Christ, and for God’s glory?
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