by Mary Lynn Derstine (originally published on December 10, 2020)

“Do you feel safe?” is a question people often asked me while I was in Iraq. Safety is a concern to many. I hear parents wondering if they should let their teenagers go places and get jobs because, “Is it safe?”

We try to be safe as we become adults. Most of us don’t pick up hitch hikers (or maybe you do?) because it’s not safe. We need to protect our families, so we make our home in the country instead of in a city. We choose jobs with good coworkers and environments, often wanting to work with people from our church or with others of similar beliefs. We avoid certain areas in a city to protect ourselves.

I’m not sure this is completely good, though. In fact, the more I study the Bible and the lives of people who have impacted others for Christ, the more I question if we have this all wrong. I’m sure some of it is a God-given sense of self-protection. But I wonder if most times we allow fear to overshadow God.

Nowhere have I read in the Bible that God calls us to be safe. Jesus tells his disciples he is sending them out like sheep in the midst of wolves. I think we all know that is not a safe situation. And Jesus is sending them there, fully realizing the danger.

Nowhere have I read in the Bible that God calls us to be safe. Jesus tells his disciples he is sending them out like sheep in the midst of wolves.

Mary Derstine

Jesus is sending us right into the middle of a wolf pack, but why? Because He wants us to spread the good news of who he is. That’s why we are here. That’s why safety is no longer our main concern.

So when I hear pastors or parents encourage believers to work in an environment with other Christians, I shake my head. Christians don’t need the gospel! They already have it.

Here is my disclaimer: I understand that maturity matters. I do realize that “bad company ruins good morals.” I understand the reason why parents are cautious to send their children to places of bad influence. I also know that God calls us to all different places and maybe the place He has called you to surrounds you with other Christians. The reason I write this is to put a little question mark in people’s minds where “safety first” once stood firmly rooted.

To explain my point of view, I went to Iraq with my parents’ (somewhat reluctant) permission. Since then I have heard from many young people who would love to go to Iraq, but their parents didn’t let them. I know not everyone is called to far away places, but it seemed to me that the danger was the primary concern. But why oh why is that stopping anyone from spreading the gospel?

I see people taking sheltered, plushy jobs in their small circles instead of jobs where they can impact more people for Christ. I believe that no matter what we do, our goal should be to further the gospel of Christ. You can do that in whatever job you choose, but I question if that’s the goal of most Mennonites. Are we choosing safety over Jesus?  

I’m not encouraging working at a place conducive to sin, but simply stepping outside of the comfort zone… and here I am preaching while I teach at a safe Mennonite school. I know, I know. God probably led me to this job so I would realize how stretching and out of my comfort zone a small Mennonite school can be!

I think it’s sad that there are so many people in America who don’t know the truth of God’s word when America is filled with so many Christians. I think it’s detrimental that although Jesus tells us to go out and make disciples, many of us make choices that hinder our ability to do that. No, wolves aren’t safe, but that’s why we need a Shepherd.

Another reason why I believe it’s important to work with unbelievers is to see how much like us they really are. A lot of my life I viewed the “worldly people” as aliens from another plant. Now I know that I am the alien.

A lot of my life I viewed the “worldly people” as aliens from another plant. Now I know that I am the alien.

Mary Derstine

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