We live in a world that is consumed with safety. Many have said, and I am in full agreement, that safety has become the most prevalent god of this world. “Safety First” is the world’s slogan. And there is little (even within the church), if any, push back on this. In fact, if you do push against this “safety first” way of thinking your often seen as uncaring, reckless, an ignoramus, or the enemy.
But “Safety First” is a slogan Jesus never used. In fact, He promoted the exact opposite when it came to following Him. Right after Jesus predicted His own suffering, death, and resurrection He said to His disciples, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
When Jesus said this people didn’t wear crosses around their neck, carve them on the back of their wagons (like we put cross stickers on cars), or say “Look to the cross,” to remind themselves and others of God’s great love. No, the cross was like the electric chair or a syringe full of poison. It was an instrument of execution. And unlike the modern instruments of execution, the cross was used to elongate and enhance the pain of death as much as possible. And it was common. Executions are rare in the U.S. today, but an estimated 30,000 Jews were crucified during Jesus’s life. That is equal to all the people living within the city limits of Eaton Rapids being crucified every five years for 30 years. And that estimation is only for the Jews crucified in Palestine. It does not include all the Jews crucified outside Palestine or all the non-Jews crucified.
So, when Jesus used the cross to explain the cost of following Him, His audience knew exactly what He meant. That His disciples must be willing to suffer and die for His sake. That they must be willing to forsake all safety, be strong and courageous, and do exactly what Jesus wants. That the mantra of their life is not “Safety First,” but “Jesus First.”
Now many will say, “Wait! Are you saying that we can and should jump in front of a semi-truck because safety is evil?” No. I am saying, as is clear from Jesus’ teaching, that when you have a choice between “doing the safe thing,” and doing what Jesus calls you to do in Scripture “doing the safe thing” should lose every time. It would have been the safe thing for Daniel to avoid praying to God for thirty days and avoid the Lion’s den. It would have been the safe thing for Peter to avoid calling out the Jews for their sin at Pentecost and avoid possible arrest and execution. It would have been the safe thing for the church to stop meeting, stop praying, stop singing under the persecution of Nero. But when it comes to a choice between perceived safety and the call of Jesus, for the Christian, Jesus wins every time. Why? Because whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. JESUS FIRST.