Safety Is a Secular, Not Christian, Virtue

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I believe this passage of dialogue from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe remains one of the most frequently cited today precisely because it runs so contrary to our default mindset. We simply assume that safety must be intimately connected with good. Indeed, I believe almost everyone views at least their own safety as a good. Yet Mr. Beaver affirms without question the goodness of Aslan, while still maintaining that he is certainly not safe. How can this be true? How can someone or something be dangerous (which is rightly what we call unsafe things) and still be entirely good?

The simple answer this that good extends much higher, descends far deeper, and runs much further than safety ever could. Safety certainly can be good. The joy that bubbles over while holding your son or daughter snuggly within your arms is a good moment to be cherished. However, many things are much more important than safety alone. The same child at thirty years of age being too afraid to ever leave your side would not be good.

Life, after all, is inherently dangerous, and we typically cope with this fact by purposely forgetting it. We love, for example, the benefits that cars afford to us; therefore, we shove the reality of automobile accidents consistently being a leading cause of death into the recesses of our minds. Life simply cannot be lived without risk.

These everyday risks become increasingly problematic depending on however highly we prioritize safety. And today, safety is increasingly being upheld as a chief good, if not the supreme good. I believe this prioritization of safety goes hand-in-hand with the secularization of our society. Because secularism is a primarily material worldview, most secularists do not believe in any kind of afterlife.[1] With only this life laid out before them, it is only logical to do everything possible to extend it as much as possible. Safety is a natural virtue of secularism because being safe helps to postpone the eventual black void of death.

If, under this worldview, safety is, therefore, elevated into being a chief good, we will inevitably begin avoiding all risks which are deemed unnecessary, while the definition of unnecessary is likely to continue broadening. Safety inconspicuously begins to define what is good, and “unnecessarily” dangerous things slowly move from being called careless or reckless to being evil.

But safety is not a Christian virtue. Our definition of good is not rooted in safety; good, instead, is an attribute of God Himself. He is good, and nothing is good apart from Him. And, as with Aslan in Narnia, He is not safe. Abraham’s trust walk to Canaan was not safe. Moses’ challenging of Pharaoh was not safe. Joshua’s conquest of Canaan was not safe. David’s reign over Israel was not safe. The prophets’ messages were not safe. The disciples’ following of Jesus was not safe. But most pointedly, Jesus’ incarnation was not safe. In fact, crucifixion was its very purpose.

Likewise, the Christian life is not meant to be safe. Christ warned us specifically that following Him requires carrying a cross upon our backs, a symbol of both dying to ourselves and being prepared to die for our Lord at any moment. Discipleship begins by denying our own safety in favor of the greater good of exalting Christ as Lord and Savior. After all, death for the Christian is not a black void of nothingness; it is the door into life everlasting. Of course, we do not also run reckless toward death. As Paul told the Philippians, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21). As long as we live, we are able to follow Christ and be His earthly ambassadors, and when we die, we will see Him face to face, which is gain in every way. We should rightly, therefore, cherish this present life, while also holding it with an open hand.

Parents have the unique responsibility of teaching this crucially Christian mentality to our children. Too often, however, I fear that we ingrain in them the secular virtue of safety. But carefulness is a more fitting lesson than safety. The Scriptures repeatedly call us to give great care to all that we do. The biblical writers tell us to be diligent, to be disciplined, to be watchful, to be sober-minded, and to be wise; all of which involve being careful in how we live. Yet we should also teach our children that their greatest danger is not physical harm but sin. They must look carefully how they walk because sin is always crouching at their door, waiting eagerly to devour them. Their physical safety is far less important than their eternal security.

Rather than telling our children to be safe, I believe that we should teach them the meaning of being wise as serpents and innocent as doves. This teaching of Jesus gives us the proper display of courage and care. We should not be reckless in anything that we do; however, we should be courageous. Being wise as a serpent implies thoughtful and clever consideration of our circumstances, which we can see demonstrated by Paul whenever he got the Sadducees and the Pharisees to start arguing with one another over the resurrection of the dead.

Yet even as we wisely understand the dangers around us, we must also maintain our innocence. Unfortunately, parents particularly can mistake naivety for innocence. If we attempt to hide our children from all sin and dangers in the world, they will be naïve rather than innocent. Naivety, being ignorant of evil, is dangerous because not knowing the danger of sin can make its inevitable appeal even stronger. Instead, we should wisely teach them the snares of the world around us and encourage them to keep innocent, to be pure in the midst of impurity.  

To be honest, I want to be safe, and I particularly want to keep my wife and daughter safe. However, each day I must die to the false hope of self-preservation and remind myself all over again that, in the words of John Piper, it is better to lose my life than to waste it.

Safety is a secular, rather than Christian, virtue. Let us strive, therefore, to follow evermore closely our God who isn’t safe but is altogether good.

[1] This is, of course, a necessary generalization. I am sure that some secularists do, in fact, have some belief in a kind of afterlife.


One thought on “Safety Is a Secular, Not Christian, Virtue

  1. Micah

    Thanks for writing, great content and thought! If life was all about safety Jesus would not have came to earth at all he had a very difficult road to walk in obedience to God. Thank you for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s