We live in a dangerous world. You only have to watch an average newscast or pick up a newspaper to realize that is true. But is it any more dangerous than previous years? We look back at earlier generations and think the world has changed drastically. But is that true? Was it safer a hundred years ago? Were there less things to worry about then? Or have the sources of danger just changed?
I grew up in the 1950’s in a small town in Minnesota, then moved to an urban area in Washington, a suburban area in that same metro area, and finally a rural area also in Washington. All of those areas seemed safe to me in my youth. But was that an illusion?
I remember one event when I was in first grade. I walked to school (by myself!) and for some reason I was running late. I just knew I was going to be late. Then a miracle happened. As I was passing the bank, a car slowed down and the driver asked if I wanted a ride to school. I was overjoyed and hopped in. The car delivered me to school and I hopped out and ran in and made it to class before the bell rang.
In my joy over this event I was telling a friend about it. He asked me who was driving the car. When I did not know, he got this wide-eyed, fearful expression on his face. “You got in a car with a stranger?” he asked. At the time I had never been aware that this was a dangerous practice, but I could tell he was genuinely shocked. At that moment I was initiated into the world of “stranger danger”.
Years later, in discussing this with others, we decided that it was probably someone who was known to our family or part of our church. It was someone I may not have known by name, but perceived as a friend. But I have never forgotten that my innocent trust was rewarded in that event, but that it could have gone very differently.
Over the years, I roamed the streets and woods of most of the areas where we lived with very little fear. But I never forgot that I needed to be aware of my surroundings. Though there was a feeling of safety, I never again took it for granted.
Around fourth grade, I read a newspaper account of an expedition in the Himalayas for the “abominable snowman” or yeti. For several days I was afraid to go to sleep at night for fear that the yeti might get me. Only after I finally convinced myself that the yeti was in the Himalayas and I was in suburban Spokane, Washington, was I able to finally relax. Of course, years later, I realized that I was actually living in the homeland of his American cousin, the bigfoot or Sasquatch.
We live in a dangerous world. But it has been that way for a long time. Jesus spoke to that in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, Martin Luther wrote this verse. “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”