2 Timothy 3:16-4:4 (NKJ) – 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside do fables.
Recently, the University of Chicago has been the focal point of much of the media. Why? This focus has resulted from the University of Chicago’s refusal to create “Safe Zones” for its students. In case we are unaware or forgot, Safe Zones are the creations of some college and university campuses. They are places where the students may go and confront no beliefs or ideologies with which they may be uncomfortable or find contrary to those that they embrace. Critics of the Zones have noted that they are indicative of political correctness run amuck and assert that they stifle opportunities for intellectual growth, comfortable or not, that can occur when students encounter a wide variety of views, not just those they currently hold.
Looking at modern Christianity, we see that the body of Christ, the Church, has its own version of Safe Zones. How so? Safe Zones in the body of Christ occur when we Christians, rather than embracing all of God’s word, including that which challenges us to examine our behaviors and beliefs, resulting in our putting away ungodly behaviors and unscriptural beliefs, instead focus only on teachings that satisfy our “itching ears.” By doing so, we stifle many opportunities for healthy growth in grace and prevent Christ from developing us as He desires.
Due to the fact that they prohibit healthy spiritual growth and development, such Safe Zones are not really safe. They only create the illusion of safety by shielding us from that which we do not want to hear, forestalling us from experiencing the healthy chastening that comes when we avail ourselves to all of God’s word, not just the parts that are more to our personal liking. By utilizing such Zones we treat ourselves as illegitimate children (Heb. 12:8) and preclude ourselves from experiencing “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” produced when we yield to all of God’s word and are “trained by it” (Heb. 12:11, NKJ).
At this point, some of us may be looking for escape routes, ways we can legitimately avoid encounters with that in Scripture which requires us to examine ourselves, regardless of whether it is comfortable or not. Doing so, some of us may even tout the unscriptural view that Jesus would never require us to depart from our Zones, as He is all about “grace.” Yes, Jesus is about grace, but Scripture describes that grace much differently than some of us seem to view it: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12, NKJ). God’s grace, obviously, it not about remaining spiritually stagnant in Safe Zones that are more to our fleshly liking. God’s grace is about healthy growth (2 Pet. 3:18).
Some of us who tout the “grace is never uncomfortable” perspective apparently have forgotten or are unaware of Christ’s letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-3:22. In those letters, Christ, rather than encouraging the churches to abide in Safe Zones, free from that which may be uncomfortable, provided wise and healthy counsel for needed change. For example, He commended the church in Sardis for those who had kept the faith, but noted that it was a dead church. Jesus counseled them to repent (a change of mind followed by a change of actions and/or direction) and strengthen the good things that remained. If they did so, He gave them the promise that the faithful would be honored and clothed in white (robes of righteousness). To none of the seven churches did He say or imply that growth in grace is always comfortable, so make sure you stay in your Safe Zones.
Looking at the body of Christ throughout the world, it is apparent that many of us have allowed the siren voices to keep us in Safe Zones. If we remain in those Zones, we shall never experience the growth in grace that Christ so desires for us. There, we will never accomplish the breadth of the good works that God created us to do (Eph. 2:10). There, we will never fully experience the food that Jesus spoke about which is to do the will of the Father (John 4:34).
As to whether or not we will remain in our Safe Zones, let us consider the words of 2 Timothy 2:16-21 (NKJ), verse 20 reminding us that “in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.” Unlike some would have us believe, it is not God who dictates whether we are vessels of honor or dishonor. That is determined by our own choices, as verse 21 states, “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” The cleansing spoken of is that of removing ourselves from iniquity or sin (verse 19), a cleansing based on the choices that each of us, not God, makes. That choice is before us. May we make the right choice, remembering that the Safe Zones we so often cling to, eternally speaking, are not really safe, for ourselves or the lost we avoid while there.