I can’t remember the setting but I heard Dallas Willard once say that we live in a Safe Universe. Luther termed it a ‘world with devils filled’ and we each know personally or know of all matters of sin, disease, persecution, hunger, slavery, injustice and the list goes on with the kinds of maladies and misfortunes that most of us could hardly call safe.
So what does a Safe Universe mean or even look like? I looked up one definition which was ‘protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or loss’. Willard suggested that safe means this universe is in God’s hands. He holds it, sustains it, guides and ultimately will make it brand new in such a way that all danger, tragedy and sorrow will be absent. Paul writes in that chapter that all his sufferings, persecutions and maladies are considered nothing when compared with the glory that will be revealed when we are with God. Paul earned the right to make that comment after all he had been through and would subsequently endure. But why can we consider the universe a safe place right now?
Willard directs our attention to the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, where first of all Paul writes that there is no condemnation for any person who is ‘in’ Christ, who places their confidence in Jesus. That person is safe from the ultimate harm of being separated from God. And then later in that chapter we read that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. And one other comment Paul makes is that God is working everything out in this universe for some good purpose. I like the way C.S. Lewis once remarked on this passage of Romans 8:28. God works all things together for good but he has not told us just how painful this good might be.
Then if I may turn to Jesus who said that in this world we would have TRIBULATION but he then said FEAR NOT FOR I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD. There are things that this world in its fallen state will throw at us including the wiles of Satan himself but Jesus tells us that in him we are victorious. The world’s evil cannot thwart the victory of faith so graphically portrayed through Christ’s death and resurrection. You and I are so valuable and thus the church, the bride of Christ is so valuable, that he will guard us in such a way that no evil will overcome us meaning ultimately turn us from God or keep us away from his love. Are we not worth more than the birds of the air that God cares for? So what happens when all this teaching is just too hard to hear when we are suffering? I say trust a community of faithful Christians and the grace of God to do in you what you cannot do for yourself.
Once in Haiti I contracted Malaria. Now, if you even had Malaria you know it’s something like having a terrible flu, only ten times worse. There was no consoling me. If I had a way of doing away with myself in those agonizing days there’s no telling what might have happened. But while I was enduring the sickness I had a community of faithful people around me praying when I could not, and helping me to endure by words of comfort and ultimately sending a speed boat to get me to the mailnland. That is the purpose and nature of community here on earth. To make sure that we live in a Safe Universe, one over which Christ is Lord. To be sure even now for those who place their confidence in Christ they are seated with him, hidden with him so that no evil might befall us. Back to Romans 8. The rest of Romans 8 is all about the relationship we have with our Abba, our Father. This is the kind of chapter in the bible you want to memorize, put in your pocket, take to a deserted island and well, maybe right now pick up and read. SDG