A post at Out of Ur by Skye Jethani has not got me thinking as much as concluding, and I ask the question: are you radical enough? It’s a question directed at me, firstly, about my Christianity.
See, I’m coming to a conclusion much like Jethani is.
…after years of hearing, and offering, [a] call to radical activism, I’ve realized that activist Christianity may be just as detrimental and off-center as consumer Christianity. We can all agree that using God simply as a divine vending machine to provide us with the American Dream, as consumer Christianity teaches, is wrong. God is not a means to an end. He is the end. But what about using God as a means of solving world hunger, growing the church, or constructing a sense of self-worth and value? Could such activist Christian tendencies be equally flawed? Might activist Christianity also reduce God to a useful device?
The post goes on to talk about making Christ the center of the Christian faith. I recommend you read it.
Now, it seems ironic that Christians should be reminded to make Christ the center of their faith, I mean the very definition of the word “Christian” implies exactly that, but we lose this focus so often.
I’ve begun to realise that in the past I’ve been very gun-ho about suffering for the Gospel and being radical and all that, and I’ve used the example of Paul and the apostles to drive home the case — look at Paul, look at the shipwrecks, the beatings, the suffering. We need to be doing the same!
Not so, perhaps. Paul had a unique calling, you see, and while I think it’s true that the Scriptures encourage us to be prepared to suffer, there is no scripture anywhere that I can see that encourages us to bring suffering upon ourselves. The difference is obvious: you’re not supposed to seek suffering as much as you’re not supposed to seek a cushy life. We’re supposed to seek a relationship with the Living God, Jesus Christ Himself.
A good look at the scriptures will show that not even all the apostles went through the kind of things Paul did. Paul had a unique calling, Apollos another. I know that traditionally most (if not all?) of Jesus’ disciples are said to have had a rather bad end (crucified upside-down, boiled alive) but even there we know that out of all the 500 disciples mentioned that Jesus had, only 12 are highlighted to have a unique calling of the original apostles (more apostles do come later) and only three seem to have an even more unique calling than those (Peter, James and John)
We can really get caught up in such hype sometimes, and in this case a hype of being ‘radical’ and suffering and selling all we have and doing all sorts of things that might have nothing to do with our unique calling in God. The examples given in scripture are there for us to follow in one instance but not another. Where we follow is we understand that we, too, each of us have our own unique calling and we must walk in that. Where we don’t follow is we don’t look at Paul and think that our calling must look the same. Wasn’t that exactly Jesus’ point in John 21:21 – 22, where Jesus tells Peter to forget about John’s calling but follow Him himself. I realised years ago to stop comparing myself with others but only recently began to realise that I ought to also stop comparing myself with the apostles too.
Maybe God has an apostolic calling for me for the future, maybe he doesn’t. And even then my apostolic calling needn’t look like Paul’s. Apollos, as an example I can think of, certainly seemed to have a very different call and life than Paul, yet they were both apostles.
Many people mean many different things when they say ‘radical Christianity’. One calls ‘radical’ rolling on the floor, shouting in tongues and acting altogether weird. Another calls ‘radical’ stocking up tinned food for when the anti-christ comes, so we can be ready. Another calls ‘radical’ throwing stones at other people’s ministry in the name of ‘discernment’. Another calls ‘radical’ having these amazing visions and prophetic words and experiences (often questionable experiences). And really, I question how Christian any of all this stuff is, because where is Christ in all of that extremism? Another calls ‘radical’ selling all we have and helping the poor and going to rough countries. Fair enough, but is that everyone’s calling?
Perhaps we’re not called to be ‘radical’, but we’re called to be ‘Other’. Radical seems to me to 99 percent of the time end in unhealthy extremism that, in the case of Christians, loses the plot of Jesus and focuses on the radicalism of an idea. It becomes all about the idea, in the end.
Are you radical enough? Perhaps you shouldn’t be. Perhaps Christ wasn’t radical. They wanted him to be. If he were more radical he could have started a political revolution. People were certainly hoping that from him. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he went to a cross. Radical wasn’t the issue here, love was. Maybe we should stop being radical and instead focus on Christ and letting Him love through us. Is that radical? Maybe. Or perhaps that’s more like relevant than radical. Or, perhaps, entirely different altogether.