The greatest freedoms are not secured by complete safety but by the elimination of fear. Those who know the grace and power of Jesus to forgive, change, and keep His people know that this is true (1 John 3:19-21 and 4:18). The Lord even uses physical and spiritual dangers to lead us to rest in Him during this life’s storms and droughts.
Last week’s terrorist attack in London is one of the latest reminders that we can never be completely free and safe in this world. Yet, even in the midst of such terrible times, the Lord Jesus works in and through His people to point us to real freedom for intimate, meaningful, and life-changing relationship with Him by safety from the threats of our flesh, the devil, and the world’s temptations.
Consider some of the times and ways the Lord causes His people to redefine “freedom” and “safety” by His calls on our lives.
- In Mark 9:14-29, how did the parents of the boy with the unclean spirit respond before and after Jesus healed him?
- In John 9, what types of freedoms and safeties had the blind man and his parents probably lost because of his blindness? What types of greater freedoms and safeties did the son and possibly the parents gain because Jesus healed him so late in his life?
- According to Romans 8, all of creation is in a type of bondage and our only true freedom and safety is in Christ. Using specific references in that chapter and the surrounding context, in what ways is our freedom in Him now the same and different than it will be when He returns? How is our safety in Him now the same and differetn than when He returns?
- In Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the Lord calls us to freedom in the midst of the dangers of temptations in our flesh. Read the chapter carefully and describe what freedom and safety look like for those who follow Christ by faith in Him.
- Study Romans 6:15-20 in context. How are God’s people in Christ simultaneously free and His slaves?
- What are some of the specific reasons the Lord allows or ordains some of His people to experience great dangers? Read the following in context: Luke 8:23, Acts 27:9, Romans 8:35, 1 Corinthians 15:30, 2 Corinthians 11:24-28.
Now consider this week’s article.
Social media firms facing fresh political pressure after London terror attack
“Freedom versus Safety” by Chaplain Jeff Dillard (28 March 2017)
Only a few months ago, I was in London to see some of our personnel stationed there and provide them with spiritual resilience training, pastoral care, and any confidential counseling they might request. I remember standing on the Westminster Bridge to take pictures of Big Ben and other historic sites. No tragedy had precipitated the visit. It was one of many great annual trips to our personnel stationed overseas and in distant labs with no local Chaplain support. But last week rocked my memory of fellow tourists enjoying the same view in relative freedom and safety.
ABC news correspondent James Glenday noted, “School children journey there in their hundreds. There’s a major Tube station nearby and often it’s so busy you have to push your way through to get to the ABC’s office just a few hundred metres away. You never want to worry too much about a terrorist attack. But after the atrocities in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin, I’ve never liked lingering there. Am I shocked? Yes. Surprised? No…Police repeatedly warned this was coming. Their carefully prepared plans appear to have worked and they almost certainly saved many more lives.” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-23/london-terror-attack-was-a-matter-of-when-not-if/8378848)
Relative freedom and safety. We always have to give up some of one for more of the other. If you or I were rich and paranoid, we could abandon most of our freedoms to live locked away in the vaulted safe room of a mansion. Maybe you’ve heard of some who seem to fit that scenario. Or if we were completely wild and carefree, we could toss our concerns to the wind and pursue a radically free life of roaming across the country, living off the land, and sleeping in the open air with no care for safety.
Most of us knowingly accept some risk to live somewhere between total safety and total freedom. In order to do this confidently, we must answer “freedom to what goal?” and “safety from what threats to that goal?” Until we clearly and passionately know whom, what, or where we value above all else and the threats that will likely stand in our way, we won’t know how to identify risks that would be acceptable to us on that journey. This life is a journey, isn’t it? We can only live one day at a time.
Given the immediate context of London last week, what will you hope to have gained in your last days? As a clergyman, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many people who knew they were dying. The joyful ones didn’t reminisce over their physical safety of that of their belongings. Nor did they celebrate freedoms they’d had. They talked with or about the people who knew them intimately and cared for them consistently. They laughed, cried, sat silently, and stayed with each other to the very end. They genuinely loved each other. But such relationships incur and accept great risks.
It takes time, failures, forgiveness, and commitment to really know each other’s hurts and hopes. We forfeit many goals on that long bridge from self-protection or self-indulgence toward real relationships. There we will freely sacrifice time, independence, secrets, and preferences to know the safety of being understood, loved, and united to another soul. And that’s a bridge worth crossing at any risk.
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