To paraphrase Amos, the Old Testament prophet, "I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet." But some things are so very predictable that even a blind man could see them coming. I knew when I wrote last week's column on "Skydiving and the Reopening Economy" that multiple readers would deliver a well-worn maxim to me concerning it, and, sure enough, it was the very first response that popped up in my email box early on Sunday afternoon.
"I read your column, and I disagree. Better safe than sorry."
I do not begrudge the writer's desire for safety. No one should be cavalier about human life, since we are, in fact, made in the image of God. That said, I literally cannot think of a worse philosophy for life in general than "better safe than sorry."
In the context of the COVID-19 crisis and the reopening economy, I am certainly all in favor of sensible safety precautions to protect the vulnerable. And the good news is, no one is being forced out of their homes and out into the world. Therefore, those of us who do embrace "normal life" again will not in any way be putting those in self-imposed isolation at risk. That is the way freedom works, and it is a beautiful thing.
But in the larger context, "better safe than sorry" is a truly horrible way to live, mostly because of all of the benefits that humanity would never know if everyone adopted that lifestyle. Whether in the spiritual realm or the physical, the bold, brave risk takers have done far more for humanity than the timid ever will.
If Jesus had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, he would have stayed in heaven altogether and left us to die in our sins. Why go to Calvary and suffer and die when heaven was so safe and comfortable?
If the apostles had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, Christianity would never have left the upper room and would have lived for exactly one generation. Those men risked and ultimately gave their lives to spread the news of the resurrected Christ.
If Paul had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, Christianity would have remained simply a regional movement. He traveled across the known world as a missionary and, in his words, faced dangers from shipwreck, stonings, robbers, beatings and false imprisonment. His risk-taking spread the gospel to countless millions in an amazingly short period of time.
If Christians from the time of the apostles to the time of Bible translators John Wycliffe and William Tyndale had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, we would never have had a Bible to hold in our hands. There was no greater risk than translating and circulating that book, and many of them lost their lives at the stake for so doing.
If explorers had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, there would be no shining beacon of freedom to the world known as the USA. People crossed treacherous seas and hazarded their lives and fortunes to find and build this place. Brave men and women blazed trails across the wilderness for others to follow. Hundreds of years later, we are still benefiting from the risks they took.
If our founding fathers had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, there would never have been a Revolutionary War, and we would still be just colonies of Great Britain, not America, the superpower of the world. America owes its birth in 1776 to some of the greatest risk takers in human history.
If Wilbur and Orville Wright had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, man would not have taken to the sky, and few people would ever see the varied magnificence of our world.
If the Allies had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, Hitler would have achieved his desire for a lasting Third Reich and world domination.
If the men and women of our space program had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, man would always have looked up at the moon from the Earth, rather than actually looking down at the Earth from the moon. One day man will likely set foot on Mars, and it will be risk takers who make it happen.
If business men and women, entrepreneurs in ventures great and small had lived by the better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, none of us in this country would have jobs and no one would be experiencing the wonderful lifestyles we all have, thanks to their risk taking.
By the way, that Jesus, whom so many sought after in his day? Mark 3:8 tells us why they came to him. It was not because he gave them safety tips; it was because "they had heard what great things he did."
I am not opposed to safety, and I am in favor of protecting the vulnerable. But no one writes great novels or biographies about people who carefully avoid all risk.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.