3-1-17 - Security

On the face of it, this devil’s bargain is for the birds:
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (This week's gospel reading is here.)

Who on earth would toss himself off a high tower and see if God will protect him? And yet, don’t we often take lesser risks with big consequences? “Sure, cancer and smoking are highly related, but it won’t get me…” “Sure, the doctor said if I keep on getting fries with everything I’m headed for quadruple bypass, but what I eat today is okay…” Or, “Sure, pesticides kill bees and marine wildlife, threatening the worldwide food supply, but it won't hurt if I treat my lawn…”

Feeling safe and protected is important to most of us. Yet the further away dangerous consequences are, the more risks we seem to take. Is this one of the ways we fall prey to the temptations of the Enemy? Maybe… after all, Christians claim that the devil desires to draw us away from the love of God. Often God is the first one we blame when bad things happen, because we forget human complicity, and because we may believe we have an unspoken contract with God guaranteeing our safety. Dig yours out of the file and check it – God never signed it. God promises us presence and power and peace in all circumstances, not protection.

I understand how facile this might sound if we think of people in Syria or South Sudan - or immigrants right here - and I don’t wish to undervalue the very real desire for life and safety. I share it. I’m just trying to remember there’s a bigger story. When security becomes our objective, we often try to get it for ourselves, turning away from God’s provision. And why not, if God hasn’t promised to protect us?

Well, because there’s a deeper gift in the relationship we gain when we decide to trust God with all that we cannot control. This temptation is really about trying to control our circumstances. What do you most need to control? Can you in prayer today entrust – to the extent you’re able – the people and things you value most to God’s care, knowing you can’t keep them safe from everything, and trusting in God’s love? See how far you can extend your trust today, and then see if you can stretch a little further in yielding control tomorrow.

As we live into the fullness of our identities as beloved of God and chosen in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, we can move past a focus on security and live from an eternal perspective. From that vantage point, though what happens in this life matters a great deal, and when others are hurt, we hurt, we also see that this life is not the end of all things. Rather, for Christ followers, it is the beginning, the training zone, the love lesson.

That perspective doesn’t change our circumstances; it transforms the way we live them. Not a bad reminder on a day when many of us will hear the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

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