Last week, we ran a Safeguarding Training evening for all of our volunteers who work with children or vulnerable adults at Kingsgate. I kicked the evening off with this simple but provoking question: Why is safeguarding important to us as a church? Before reading any further, why don’t you take a moment to think about this question.
There’s a whole range of possible answers that you could give to this question. For example, “Well, it’s a legal thing that we need to do, so I guess we should do it”. Or maybe, “In the past we never had any of this bureaucracy, but in today’s climate and society, we need to do it, so we should do it”. Or perhaps you’re thinking, “We need to keep inappropriate people away from working with kids and vulnerable adults”. I want to suggest that as Christians, we’ve been called to a much greater vision of safeguarding than any of these!
I love safeguarding! I think we’ve been called as a church family, to be leading lights in the safeguarding world. Why? Because I believe safeguarding is a reflection of our God and his dealings with people!
Let me give you three simple examples from the Bible:
“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving him food and clothing. You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.” (CSB)
Here in these verses, we see God comparing and contrasting himself with the ‘gods’ of the surrounding nations (e.g. God of gods). And amazingly, one of the ways God distinguishes himself from all the other ‘gods’ around, is through his intentional care for those who are most vulnerable in society (the fatherless, the widow and the immigrant). Tim Keller, commenting on this says, “So, from ancient times, the God of the Bible stood out from the gods of all other religions as a God on the side of the powerless, and of justice for the poor.”
What does this have to do with safeguarding? Loads! Safeguarding is about ensuring that some of the most vulnerable people within our society: children, vulnerable adults and ex-offenders, are given a safe, appropriate and secure community to be part of! As we commit ourselves to the principles of safeguarding, we are embracing the culture that reflects our God! To relegate safeguarding to a purely legal or tick-box exercise is to misunderstand or neglect the nature of our God and his dealings with people.
“Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (CSB)
Notice how in this well-known verse that speaks about God’s love for social justice (or the care of those most vulnerable in society), there is an added dimension compared to the last set of verses we just looked at. Here, Micah is explicitly saying that we’ve not just been called to think about issues of justice but to do or act! “Act justly, love faithfulness (which is another active description) and then to walk humbly with your God”. Safeguarding, at its core, has the principle that each one of us has responsibility to act; that together, we demonstrate care. Together we create a community of safety and security as we each choose to see ourselves as having an active part to play!
Safeguarding means that we are all active participants in creating a community where the vulnerable are safe and secure.
“One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is, Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” (CSB)
Famous words! Words that you and I probably could quote. The whole point of these commands is that they work together as a description of the transformed life of a follower of Jesus.
Firstly, love God above all things (that’s our vertical relationship). However, we’ve also then been called to love on a horizontal level. In fact, our love for others is an authenticator of the fact that we truly love God [ouch]! As a result, loving your neighbour, like the children at Kingsgate, or the vulnerable adults who are part of the church family, or the ex-offender who wants to be part of the church family – these are not optional extras to our devotion to God. No, these are practical examples of our love for and devotion to Him. To say we love God and yet choose to ignore our children, vulnerable adults and ex-offender ‘neighbours’ is evidence that our love for God does not run very deep or may even be counterfeit (see 1 John 3).
So, Church Family, can I encourage us all to take safeguarding here at Kingsgate as an important and precious outworking of God’s love for the vulnerable and a healthy expression of our love for our neighbour!
Adam Bradley 2018
As a church, we are part of CCPAS a nation organisation that overseas safeguarding in churches and Christian organisations.