The other day I was reflecting on all the warning signs around my house. It began early in the morning as I slipped the newspaper out of its protective plastic sleeve. Stamped on the plastic sleeve were these words in big black letters: WARNING: TO AVOID DANGER OF SUFFOCATION, KEEP ALL PLASTIC BAGS AWAY FROM BABIES AND CHILDREN.
I soon became aware of other warning signs around the house? My blow dryer has a tag that shouts: “DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG!” And then it proceeds to inform me in big letters (red this time) to “KEEP AWAY FROM WATER!” It even has a drawing of a tub full of water next to a plugged in blow dryer. A red line slashes through the picture. The underside of the toaster warns me against the dangers of getting a shock if I should be so foolish as to tamper with the innards of my toaster. The window blinds have a red tag warning against the potential for strangulation.
These warnings are important and have probably saved many lives. Still, we can take them for granted or even ignore them at times. But (I thought) all these warning signs serve essentially the same purpose. They help keep us safe. They promote life.
These musings led me to ask: What warnings do we find in scripture that help keep us safe and promote life—especially the spiritual life. Although there are many, I’ve picked three.
“Fear not, little flock.”” Jesus gave this warning against fear to his disciples—and to us. Though no professional psychologist, Jesus was well acquainted with the strengths and quirks of human nature. He knew how debilitating fear could be. Fear can zap our energy, erode our hope, and paralyze our ability to do good. Yet Jesus was realistic enough to know that there were many aspects of life that warranted fear: the uncertainty of the future, the vulnerability of relationships, the vagaries of the weather, the potential for war and violence. How could Jesus tell his disciples not to fear? Because God was with them—not only during rosy times but also during rotten times. Jesus’ warning against fear contains the promise of God’s immanent and enduring love.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” In these words Jesus warns us that following him will be no easy path, no bed of roses. It will involve self-sacrifice and even pain. But the good news embedded in this seemingly bad news is this: Jesus goes before us, leading the way.
“Come aside and rest a while.” Jesus spoke these tender words to his apostles who had been working very hard. He speaks them to us as a warning against overwork. Work can be good, very good. But it must be balanced by regular times for rest , relaxation, fun.
Do any of these three warnings speak to you today? What other warnings in scripture do you appreciate or struggle with?