I remember reading about a couple that was worn thin by the worldwide wars and decided to investigate contemporary history to find the safest place on earth to live. Finally, they found their paradise and packed their belongings to move to their archipelago of refuge. They wrote to their families that they had found security and bliss in the chain of islands off the coast of Argentina, the Falkland Islands. The year was 1981. The British invaded the islands in 1982. They had front row seats.
Upon coming to Colombia we said the safest place in the world was to be in the center of God’s will. We have had threats and close calls but not one bullet hole in 28 years in Colombia. I once analyzed how many people were killed violently per year in Colombia in 1994 and figured that if the 4 of us lived in Colombia for 28 years, the statistical chances of at least one of the 4 of us being killed was about 45%. But I believed we were safe. Nevertheless, there are more martyrs today being tortured and killed for the cause of Christ than ever. In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million — fully 65% — were in the last century, according to “The New Persecuted” (“I Nuovi Perseguitati”). So following Jesus is not that safe.
When we moved to Medellin in 1994, it was the murder and kidnapping capital of our hemisphere. In the first three weeks in Medellin, I saw 3 people gunned down. A month later, another young man was shot in the head a half-block from our house. I called my friend Randy, the head of the mission, and told him how scared and sick I felt. He asked me if I had read the fine print in Psalm 91, “A thousand will fall at your side, but will it not come nigh to you. ” The promise is good only when the threat is close.
Jesus told His men to get in the boat. They got into the boat, into the center of the will of God – into the center of the black storm. The waves were over their heads and the wind was over their voices. So much for being nice and safe in His will. But there was stillness in the storm, so still it stilled the storm. Jesus had peace in the storm and then stood up and threw His peace over the storm. To have authority over the storm we must first have peace in the storm. I always thought of peace as being a quiet nice sort of fellow, but here peace is like a tough guy who quiets the whole bar just by standing up. In the center of Gods will, Jesus slowly stands up inside us and the fear melts.
I really enjoy being alive. I would like to live another 100 years. One thing for sure is we are not really living until we are OK about dying. Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian of the First Great Awakening said we are like spiders on a thread hanging over a fire. What holds us back from falling into eternity is a thin gold wire, very thin. This earth is not safe. Living is dangerous. About 275,000 people die every day. The average person lives about 24,150 days. We only will see the sun set so many times. We will only have so many conversations that penetrate the heart. We only have a few more times we will cry at airports.
We live in the illusion that all this will go on and on. I remember a policeman who said that dead people usually have a surprised look on their face. Death is rarely planned. They say that every West Virginian has at least one relative whose last words were, “Hey, watch this.”
In 1975, an English bricklayer Mr. Alex Mitchell, and his wife were watching their favorite TV show, The Goodies. During a scene about a new type of self-defense called `Ecky Thump’, Mr. Mitchell was seized by a fit of laughter. After an hour of uncontrollable laughter, he suffered a heart attack and died. His wife wrote to The Goodies thanking them for making her husband’s last moments so happy.
So there is no safe place on this spinning earth. An 8.8 earthquake in Chile knocked the earth’s axis off a bit and now we are spinning faster, the way a twirling figure skater spins faster as she pulls in her arms. So now our limited days are now shorter by a few nano seconds. Will we age faster or just get dizzy? This earth is not a safe place. Even joy can kill us. The only safe place I know is where danger and death are not so dangerous, and that comes from a very unsafe place, the cross where Jesus died. If you got another, let me know.”
– Andrew McMillan