If you’re like me, you’ve been reading a lot about secular universities and their newly designated “safe spaces.” These are magical places, where no one can hurt your feelings nor disregard the things you may profess, no matter which absurdities they may entail. If you’re even more like me, perhaps you’ve shared posts about them on your social media sites, scoffing with incredulity at this new breed of mankind, of which one need not interact nor deal with those who disagree with his or her points of view. Preposterous. Ridiculous. Downright infantile.
That was my point of view on the matter until recently when I was confronted with an uncomfortable nudge I believe came from the Holy Spirit, which enlightened me to a startling fact. I have lived in quite a “safe space” of my own, one which has enveloped me practically from birth. Because of an incredible racial injustice that took place in 1918, I grew up in a verified “sundown town,” where blacks had been driven out overnight and never returned. (There is a faint trickling in now, but ever so slight.) In our town there was basically one religion — evangelical Christianity. There were several denominations, but I didn’t meet my first Catholic until Girl Scout camp in third grade, and wouldn’t meet another until much later, perhaps the one I married. I do not remember my first encounter with a Jewish person, but it was probably during college. I met one Muslim in high school. At the Christian boarding school I attended, there were exactly three African Americans who attended during some point of my four years. I went on to attend a Southern Baptist college, later earning a master’s degree at the largest Christian university in the world, and now I am pursuing a doctorate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As of yesterday, my facebook list is all white or hispanic, and for the most part Christian or Catholic. In other words, my world is a very safe space. I’ll be honest with you…the thought of stepping out of that space is not one that provokes excitement or eagerness. Yet, the need is urgent. I must step out.
You see, I have fallen into a way of thinking that delights the enemy of our souls. I have come to see those outside my space as though they are the enemy. I’ve depersonalized them with the very convenient pronoun, “they” — those of whom I simply am not a part. I have been the Pharisee who boasted of himself in prayer, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector,” (Luke 18:11), though I used terms like “liberals,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” etc. Worse than that, I have assumed that I see every issue clearly — that I, an inadvertent “snowflake” who grew up in a completely homogeneous town, could understand what it is like to grow up black. Or muslim. Or destitute. Or Hispanic. Or tempted toward sins that are different from my own. Or liberal. Or…..
When it comes to seeing those who are different from me with God’s eyes, I have a long, long, long, long way to go, and there simply isn’t enough space for the number of “longs” I need to put there.
I am not called to conform others to my image. I am not even called to conform others to Christ’s image. I am called to spread the very good news of the Gospel, one that is based on our universal depravity, not the color of our skin or the circumstances of our birth, and our universal desperation for the Savior, Jesus Christ, who alone can bring salvation and the peace we crave both inwardly and outwardly.
And regarding the Gospel, what good comes of shouting to the blind man, “Why do you not see these things?!!!!” On the answer being “none,” we can agree. So now I ask, “If I start by ridiculing the blind man and scoffing at his every stumble, how much attention will he give when I tell him of the things he cannot see?” Can we still agree on the answer being “none”?
This is it, right here. This is the moment I am falling to my knees and begging God for forgiveness. I have focused on the fruit of men whose hearts are in desperate need of the Gospel I’ve left in the shadows. I have arrogantly failed to connect with those who have experienced trials I will never know. I have failed to connect with those I’ve deemed unsafe. I have tuned people out of my feed if their ideas caused me emotional discomfort. What an arrogant “snowflake” I have been. O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner!
And please…help me step out of this space.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:14, ESV