There’s a lot of talk and opinion these days surrounding the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis. In his recent visit to the U.S. Pope Francis was driven through the streets of Philadelphia in a retrofitted Jeep Wrangler. Beyond the relative simplicity of his vehicle of choice, the thing that strikes me the most is Pope Francis’ apparent indifference to the usual safety precautions that Popes have implemented since the assassination attempt of John Paul 2 in 1981.
According to a CNN report, Pope Francis told a Spanish newspaper that he doesn’t use a bulletproof vehicle because it feels like a “sardine can.” With regards to his safety he says, “I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God.” http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/14/world/europe/pope-francis-interview-popemobile/
Safety in and of itself is not a bad thing, and there is nothing intrinsically glorious about pain or death. In fact, I don’t think that death was ever part of God’s original plan for his good creation in the first place. But while I don’t believe Christians should go out of their way to self-destruct, we are commanded to prioritize “love of neighbor” over “love of self.”
Love trumps safety. Unfortunately, in the war-torn world that we call, “home” safety is often the price we pay for love.
The cliche, “safety first” might be a valuable secular philosophy, but for followers of the Crucified Messiah it is at best misleading, and at worst completely “Anti-Christ.”
Jesus pretty much says the opposite of “safety first.” While he promises his presence, his joy, his peace, and even his power, the one thing he flat out rejects is any guarantee of safety for his disciples.
In Mark 13 he predicts they will be arrested and whipped. In John 15 he says the world will hate us even as it hated him. In Luke 9 and Matthew 16 Jesus says we are to “take up our cross and follow him.” And just in case you’re still not convinced, Jesus also says, “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
While Jesus wasn’t running to his death, he wasn’t running away from it either. Jesus understood that love is “stronger than death.” He understood that death is sometimes a means to the end of love, not the other way around.
I wonder how often I’ve allowed my own physical safety and security to create a barrier between me and the people I am called to serve?
What about you? How often have you prioritized safety over sacrifice? How often has the Western Church opted for “bulletproof glass” instead of skin-to-skin contact?
It seems that this Pope is so determined to reflect the attitude and love of Jesus that he is willing to risk his own safety to be able to physically touch the people God puts in front of him.
I don’t believe Pope Francis has a death wish but I do believe he wants so badly to touch as many people as possible with the self-sacrificial love of Jesus that he is more concerned about mission fulfillment than mission longevity.
Imagine a world where all professing Christians followed suit. Imagine a world where the name of Jesus was associated with radical compassion instead of radical judgmentalism, self-denying courage instead of self-sustaining fear. Imagine a world where Christian doctrine was understood only in the context of self-sacrificial love.
I witnessed a pretty bad fight at the Relief Bus a few years back and I found myself right in the thick of it. In that moment I realized that God is far less concerned about my safety than I am.
But come on, if there is one group of people that shouldn’t be the least concerned about getting killed, shouldn’t it be those of us who claim to follow a man that rose from the dead?
Grace and Peace,