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Last Thursday afternoon, my home church went on lockdown. No one allowed to enter the premises for the rest of the day, evening events cancelled. The reason: someone made a vaguely threatening phone call to the church. The “rush” e-mail distributed from the pastor’s office read in part, “We have no real reason to think there is any danger, but just in case …”
By the next day, everything was back to normal. The incident wasn’t even mentioned at Sunday worship. And I couldn’t help finding it a bit ironic that the sermon text that day was “Judge not,” complete with personal examples of people who “looked like” hoodlums and weren’t.
Understand, I’m not trying to judge the church on whether its precautionary actions were reasonable. And it’s not as if that particular incident had any direct effect on me or my plans. However, I do get tired of the “just in case” attitude that rules society today. More than a few churches around here have made “you don’t enter the grounds unquestioned” the rule rather than the exception. Schools, even more so. I hardly need mention modern airport security. Or the public and political arguments over gun laws, arms races, and whether this country needs a security fence along its southern border. Not to mention events cancelled because it might rain, or emergency evacuations from cities that weren’t hit by the hurricane after all.
And yes, I personally keep my insurance current, turn down rides and Facebook invitations from strangers, check my credit reports, and keep my outside doors locked even when I’m at home.
Some of it is necessary. Most of it is a bother. And nearly all of it carries the implication, “It’s up to you to make sure nothing bad happens to you.”
Which makes sense up to where we start taking “sure” and “nothing” literally. There comes a point when wise people admit that total security is impossible. And no, it’s not exclusively a modern-day issue. In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the New Testament writers noted:
“When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
And, “A rich man … said to himself … ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?'” (Luke 12:16, 17, 19-20).
And the classic warning against disregarding God’s right to overrule our plans, James 4:13-15: “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'”
Locked doors and insurance and careful planning have their place, but they are not our true security. Our true security is in a prayerful, well-nurtured relationship with God.
And that relationship is no “just in case” precaution. It’s an essential constant through good times and bad.