He is not safe, but he is good.
“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.
In one of my favorite book series, The Chronicles of Narnia, we run across this description of Aslan, the lion. Aslan, of course, is a character that was intended by C.S. Lewis, the author, to be a picture of Jesus. This particular line has always captivated me.
Our Idea of Jesus
Growing up my mental image of Jesus was usually the paintings that I saw hanging on the wall of so many churches I would visit or attend. I’m guessing many of you know the pictures I’m talking about. I jokingly would refer to them as “Surfer Jesus.” The Caucasian, long-haired man with a neatly trimmed beard looking with longing, off in the distance. This Jesus was…safe. He wasn’t really that threatening. I mean, we knew, theologically, that Jesus was strong, but we didn’t talk about that very much. My mental picture of Jesus was that he was weak, even as I might not say that verbally. Lewis, however, in his description of Aslan, turns that idea on its head. He pictures for us a royal king; a ruler that is capable of anything, but one who always leads in a way that is good. The idea of a good, but not safe, Jesus can be hard for us, particularly in the American church, to swallow.
“The safest place in the world is the center of God’s will!”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that. The idea behind the concept, of course, is that God will protect you if you step out in faith and follow him. The problem with this idea is that it’s profoundly not biblical. Over and over in Scripture, those who follow Jesus suffer pain and even death. No one in scripture demonstrates this more clearly than Jesus himself. He was perfectly centered in God’s will, and he was brutally crucified in obedience to God’s will (Acts 4:27-28). Although those of us in Evangelicalism regularly lampoon (and rightly so) prosperity theology, we unwittingly embrace a watered-down form of it when we think that obedience to God always equates to blessings in the way that we insinuate with phrases like the one above about the center of God’s will.
Follow God Is Costly
The unvarnished truth is this; there are times when following God will cost you greatly. This should not surprise us as the call to embrace the gospel is a call to self-denial (Luke 9:23). We cannot even begin following Jesus apart from the denial of our selves – our lives – and the embrace of following Jesus. And sometimes Jesus will lead us into hard places. Sometimes following Jesus can cost us everything (ask some of the great martyrs who have lived and died before us). As Americans, who have lived a very comfortable existence, this unsafe Jesus can seem foreign.
Yes, Jesus is good. No, Jesus is not necessarily safe. Lewis was right. This is true of Jesus because he is our king. And because he is our king, he governs over us and sends us out to obey his will. And there are times when this obedience will cost us, but we can gladly sacrifice knowing that the cost is always a part of the good that God has designed for the world. Just like the price that Jesus paid led to the redemption of all who believe, the commands of our unsafe Jesus may lead us to sacrifice; but, we can be confident that our sacrifice will lead to God’s glory and the good of the world around us.
So embrace this unsafe Jesus. Embrace him in all of his strength and majesty, and trust him that he will direct us in ways that are good.