“Christians should be creating safe spaces, not ridiculing them.”
The headline grabbed my attention. It was an article on Patheos that was tagged ‘progressive Christian’, which, admittedly is not the way I lean, but this is a topic that kind of ruffles my feathers. When I think about it, it’s because I see so much more below the surface than just the politically correct talk we all adhere to. There’s so much more going on, and it has to do with our hearts more than our political beliefs. Here’s an excerpt from the article, written by a United Methodist pastor who works on a college campus:
“So one way of understanding safe space is as a retreat space in which a marginalized group can decompress and relax together. It has to be okay with me that the black, queer, or female people I love sometimes need to spend some time apart from white male messiahs like me… So many chest-thumping conservative evangelicals are in love with the idea of costly grace. They need for their Christianity to feel mean and hard enough that it cannot be accused of worldly compromise. We live in a very graceless, cut-throat world. Some universities have decided to build their brand off of being that way. But as Christians, our most fundamental act of evangelism is to create safe space for those who are poor in spirit, meek, and persecuted. The measure of how saved I am as a Christian is how safe I am able to be for other people.”
That’s a lot to take in, for me anyways. It’s sad that this man sees himself as some kind of awful protagonist and thorn in the side of others. Jesus doesn’t see us that way, but we are obsessed with categories aren’t we? I’d like to say that yes I am unashamedly IN LOVE with the idea of costly grace, but not because I’m a mean jerk; Christ paid a price for my freedom and He told us there would be a cost to following Him. Grace is meant to set free the sinner, not set him free to sin. This tendency to see traditional Christians as ‘‘cut-throat” and graceless is pretty prevalent, and there isn’t a lot to back it up. A surrender Christ and an obedience to doctrine are way too often thrown under the bus because they don’t mesh with the a selfish self-centered spirituality. As for our most “fundamental act of evangelism” being to create a safe space for people… I disagree. We are to love God and our neighbor, yes indeed. That love though, flows from a larger place than our human relations, it comes from our relationship with Christ. Pleasing the people is not our highest calling, loving them the way God loves us is. The last sentence floors me: if we truly believe the measure of how saved we are depends on how ‘safe’ we are for other people we are in deep trouble. We are saved based on our accepting what Jesus did for us on the cross, period. This is a willful misunderstanding of what grace means and it is dangerous. You cannot criticize people for being obedient to God’s word while simultaneously telling others their salvation hinges on how ‘safe’ they are for other people to be around. We are all on the same sinking ship here, what a pity if we have to rely solely on another passenger to validate or save us.
To counter this all, I read an article over at Sheologians, one of my go-to podcasts and sites for gracious, but truth-filled discussion. The tackle this idea that church should be our “safe space” where we are free to be friends with sin and remain Switzerland when it comes to hard topics, but they do it gracefully and with truth. Popular sayings like “we just need to make more room at the table” heap shame on anyone who thinks there’s a price to pay to actually be at that table. Claiming everything is too nuanced or complicated is the go-to argument to shut down any challenging conversation. Some have recklessly and boldly planted their flag in the worlds camp, which doesn’t help anyone. Others have become so new-age and mystic in their writing, nobody can really understand what they are saying. Like Summer says in the article, Christians, we need to know how to play ball in this area.
The approaching Easter season is a real reminder to us that our freedom came at a price. Jesus told us that we are to rest in His finished work on the cross and that a life spent with Him requires some sacrificial things of us. We don’t always get to follow our feelings to wherever we please, especially when they lead us further down the path of self-glorification. It’s not complicated, it’s just not easy to crucify that awful selfishness we all have. That’s the whole issue here… we want what we want and we want it now. Joining in that chorus is one of the saddest things a Christian can do. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“I struggle with all the “space” talk these days. There’s safe spaces and white spaces. Black spaces. Female spaces. Spaces for dissent. Spaces for discussion. Just space space space. What I do know is that it is very virtuous to create space, and not to inhabit too much space, and to never, ever make someone else feel like you don’t care about their space. I have no idea what anyone is talking about.
Assuredly, if “safe space” does exist, it is decidedly NOT the church. The church is not a safe space. Let me make this perfectly clear. The church? The Bride of Christ? It is not safe for the world. It is not safe to your sensibilities. It is not safe for your feelings. The Bride of Christ is anything but, because the Bride of Christ is literally covered in blood. Christ did not knock on the door of your heart and ask if he could come in, He is the Son of God incarnate and his body was crushed and broken and he slayed death to make you His bride and if you are indeed his bride, you have died, too. You are dead. And now you are alive in Christ. Your flesh is at war and the church is the hospital for those of us who are wounded by our remaining sin and seeking to mortify that sin. The church is not a safe space. You will find healing and you will find fellowship, but it is going to be among other soldiers who are also fighting the good fight and showing up week after week badly bruised and broken and scarred by their remaining sin. You will find peace and joy everlasting, but the church does not exist to give you that. Believers exist to be active, serving members of the church, and it WILL cost you to do so. Your peace rests solely on the head that wore a crown of thorns in your place, and that cross that Jesus was crucified on? It is foolishness to the world. It makes no sense to the world. It is laughable to the world, and it is detested by the world, and it is not safe. It’s the centerpoint of history itself. It is the hinge upon which our very calendars turn because until that cross, the world was just waiting for Him. And since that cross, we are waiting for Him, and we are told that the cost of following Christ is so high, that unless you are willing to hate father, mother, sister, brother, you go ahead and put that cross down and get out because it is not for you.”
That’s not easy stuff. It’s true, but it pokes and prods us right out of our comfortable places. This idea that we all must be catered to at every moment and never made to feel uncomfortable is bananas. I read the other day a painfully long comment on social media from someone who was called “she” instead of “they” and was ready to burn the house down. She (they?) was (were?) violated in the worst way. Don’t infringe on my feelings. Don’t disagree with me. Don’t ask questions. Just do it.
The level we have reached is bordering on militant. The flesh screams for validation while Christ offers freedom from it all… IF we choose to pick up our cross and follow. Here’s the great news:
“Now, all of that said, the church is a great place to work out your faith. The church is where we should be ready and willing to wrestle with tough issues.”
Work it out. Don’t ignore the plank in your own eye, don’t excuse sin at every turn or just accept that this is how things are… wrestle and fight because truth is too valuable and the freedom Jesus offers is too beautiful not to. There’s so much more to life than feeling safe and not offended! The world needs to understand that. Christians, put down your fear of being misunderstood, set aside your pride and go love people with the true gospel. It’s not a safe space, but how quickly we learn it’s not all about us and our wish to be comfortable. It is however, the only place where we will find anything worth holding on to.