In the next 16 weeks we will host close to 2500 youth and young adults in our Discover program. There are many reasons why this is the time of year when I start losing sleep. Last year we had a group of youth that came to our DOOR-Chicago program. They arrived Sunday afternoon and by Sunday evening the adult leaders had determined that the neighborhood was too dangerous. From what I could discern by talking to our staff and their sponsors their danger determination was based on the fact that the neighborhood was different. It is a majority African American neighborhood and they let their stereotypes turn into real fear, and they left. This summer will mark my 18th year of inviting groups of people into the city. Safety is a big concern for me. We don’t intentionally put people at risk, but we do challenge stereotypes and this can masquerade as risk.
Have you ever prayed the safety prayer? It is the prayer we pray before road trips and mission trips. It goes something like this. “God please guide us, protect us, and keep us safe.” Have you ever wondered why we pray this prayer? The Lord’s Prayer does not have a safety clause. Jesus did talk to God about not going to the cross, but I am not sure that counts as a safety prayer. In John 17 Jesus does pray for protection but he was praying for our souls, that they would be protected from the evil one.
When Jesus did talk about becoming a follower, ideas like self-denial, self-sacrifice, and picking up one’s cross were always present. The safety prayer was not Jesus’ go-to prayer. If anything Jesus emphasized the need to count the cost before choosing to follow.
I sometimes wonder that in our efforts to make Christianity palatable we ignore the difficult stuff. Jesus never called us to safety. If anything security is connected to confronting our fears, ignoring the impulse to judge, and embracing what culture says is dangerous.