Christians, Safety, and Health (Rev. 12:11)

Everyone is talking about health and safety today because of the virus.  That’s not a bad thing; health and safety are important.  However, for those who follow Jesus, health and safety are not our top priority.  This is one area where the Christian worldview clashes with the worldviews of our culture.  Everyone else out there might say that health and safety are our number one concerns.  But Christians don’t bow to the idol of health; we don’t serve the god of safety.

Yes, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we should not mistreat our bodies or trash them.  Jesus loves us, body and soul.  However, we have a higher calling than maintaining our health and safety at all costs. Our high call is to take up our cross, deny ourselves, lose our lives for Christ’s sake, and follow him (Mt. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34, etc).  Sometimes following Jesus and obeying him means suffering, mistreatment, pain, prison, and even death (as we learn so well from the stories in Acts).  Our primary aim is not to live a long, healthy life; it’s to serve Christ and follow his call.  Our chief end is not safety; it’s to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

On this topic, one verse that has made an impression on me over the years is Revelation 12:11.  Here John talks about martyrs who “did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (NIV).  The NLT puts it this way: “They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”  They loved Christ more than their lives; their testimonies were more important than their safety.  Here area a few helpful commentaries on this verse:

“They did not love their life unto death” is a negative way of saying that they persevered in their testimony to Christ, despite persecution. To persevere in the faith to the end is to “overcome to the end” and to defeat the dragon (cf. also Rev. 12:11, 17 with 13:3…). If they maintain their faith, they maintain their identification with and share in Christ’s overcoming through death and resurrection. The mark of genuine “overcomers” is that they love their Lord more than their own earthly welfare (cf. Matt. 16:24–26). The enduring nature of the Christians’ “overcoming” is repeated at the end of each of the letters in chs. 2–3. [G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 665.]

There is a saying of Jesus that occurs in three relatively independent versions in which the notion of “saving one’s life” is found in paradoxical formulations…: (1) “loving life” and therefore losing it and “hating life” and therefore achieving it (John 12:25), (2) “saving one’s life” and therefore losing it, and “losing it” and therefore finding it (Mark 8:35 = Matt 16:25 = Luke 9:24), and (3) “finding” or “seeking to gain one’s life” and then losing it, versus “losing life” and then finding it (Matt 10:39 = Luke 17:33…). …See also Ignatius Eph. 9:3, “Love nothing according to human life, but God alone,” in the context of the author’s awareness of impending martyrdom.  [David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16, vol. 52B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1998), 703.]

…[B]y their courage and patience in sufferings; they loved not their lives unto the death, when the love of life stood in competition with their loyalty to Christ; they loved not their lives so well but they could give them up to death, could lay them down in Christ’s cause; their love to their own lives was overcome by stronger affections of another nature…. [Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2477.]

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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