Safe Space

by | Feb 18, 2020

Every day on my way to seminary, I have to pass several schools. The added traffic can make an early morning commute frustrating. But the slowness gives me time to think. Posted next to the entrance of the elementary school is a sign. It says, “safe school zone.” Implying a safe space for our children.

Legally designated safe spaces, such as schools, are places where it is illegal to possess anything harmful, like weapons or drugs. The speed limit is reduced. There are higher penalties for breaking the law in the designated safe space than, say, a block away in either direction.

The church should be a safe space. It should be a safe space for Christians to have hard conversations. It should be a space where we are especially careful to not bring conversational weapons. It should be a place where we slow down and become slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick only to listen.

There is a type of Christian who is really zealous about the truth. I mean REALLY zealous about truth. This person is willing to pick every theological fight with every possible opponent. This person is convinced of every position he or she holds and seems to rate all issues as of equal importance and urgency, responding to nuanced difference of opinion with the same ferocity as if their opponent was denying the deity of Christ. This person is not typically kind. Their zeal has made love of neighbor impossible.

Here’s the problem with this approach to truth and discernment—the Bible. James teaches that there are two kinds of wisdom. One he calls demonic. The other comes from God.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace” James 3:17-18

Note that James does not deny the importance of truth, discernment, or wisdom. But Scripture will not let us choose between wisdom and kindness, truth and charity, or conviction and peace. There is a way to be both zealous for the truth and kind to those with whom you disagree.

The fruit of this kind of peace in our lives together as Christians is unity. The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace. Leading with the boot, conversationally and otherwise, is a decidedly un-Jesus move. When we are humble and kind, we make our churches safe places.

Too often we are discipled in how to have these interactions by people who do not exhibit the godly wisdom James describes. Blogs, TV, and radio—some even claiming to be Christian—abound that bear a lot more resemblance to demonic wisdom than godly wisdom. Keep those things and their influence out of your church and make it a more safe space.

Church should be the safest place to speak about the difficult matters of race and racism. It should be the safest place to point out blind spots. Christians should be those most ready to hear, listen, empathize, and be willing to change for the sake of brothers and sisters. Let’s pray toward that end.

 


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that God would increase our desire to make our churches welcoming for hard conversations.
  2. Pray that we would increase in wisdom.
  3. Pray that our wisdom would be kind, producing peace in our churches.

 

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Author

  • Austin Suter

    Austin is the executive director and editor for U?WP. He is a husband, father and seminary student at RTS Charlotte. Austin is a member at Iron City Church in Birmingham, AL. @amsuter

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