I teach my children about stranger danger. I spend a fair amount of time shredding junk mail. I am careful about using my children’s first names online; I know people who will not accept Facebook friend requests from acquaintances because they want to protect their children. And I wonder whether the greater danger to my children is from an unknown predator or from me.
It’s a difficult balance to maintain. Of course I want to protect my children from the horrors of abuse. Of course I want them to be healthy and safe. But I don’t want to teach them to live in fear of potential dangers and of people in general.
In short, I fear that fear of the harm people can cause us is keeping us all from building relationships, from getting to know people who can bring joy, encouragement, and friendship into our lives. Yes, some people might do something awful to us or our children. Yes, we should “be wise in the way [we] act toward outsiders” (Colossians 4:5). But if we follow every recommended precaution against unknown people who intend to do us wrong, we will build walls around our families that keep out everyone.
Colossians 4:5 starts, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders,” but it ends, “make the most of every opportunity.” Our focus is wrong. We should be wise not about keeping out potential harm but about finding the best way to express Christ’s love to “outsiders.”
I have to remind myself that all my friends were once strangers. If I had never shared any personal information with them, if I had never accepted an invitation from someone I knew only casually, I would never have had the opportunity to love them or to enjoy their love for me.