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79:  Embracing the Call to Radical Christianity

79: Embracing the Call to Radical Christianity

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Challenging the Status Quo

We live in a world where the term “radical” often evokes images of extremism and division and has developed a rather nasty reputation in our culture since the ’60s.  Therefore, it may come as a surprise that at the very heart of Christian discipleship lies a call to a radically different way of life.  This radical lifestyle is not about taking up arms or shouting louder than the voices of opposition.  Instead, it’s about embracing a radical love, a radical commitment, radical obedience and sacrifice, and a radical transformation that only comes from fully embracing the life and teachings of Jesus Christ himself— who was the greatest radical who ever lived.

That’s right.  Let that thought sink in for a moment.

What is a Radical, and Why Should I Care?

But first, to set the stage, let’s define what the word “radical” means.  According to Webster, “radical” is ‌defined as “something (or someone) new and different in contrast to what is traditional or ordinary.”  In other words, being “radical” is a relative term based on a comparison with what society deems common or ordinary or what we refer to as the “status quo.”  This means it is the ordinary and traditional aspects of a society that determine, right or wrong, if something (teachings or ideas) or someone (individual or actions) is radical or revolutionary.  Consider that last statement carefully.  Note where the power to make the determination lies (mainstream opinion and not actual truth).  Do you see the problem?

When a culture refers to individuals or their beliefs and practices as radical, it means they are considered extreme, controversial, and even dangerous to the mainstream.  And since they could harm the status quo by threatening change or something even more frightening, accountability— those accused of being radical are often marginalized, excluded, punished, canceled, and eventually eliminated for the good of the whole, or at least for the good of the power elites who govern the whole.

But What About Jesus?

This compels us to address the question nobody wants to ask.  Namely, is it OK, maybe even expected, for the Christian life to be viewed as radical by our lost and dying culture that rejects the claims and teachings of Christ?  And if so, are our Christian ideas and actions supposed to challenge the status quo of our society (both secular and sacred) at this point in history?  Or do we just blend into the woodwork and hope the culture will leave us alone to do the religious things we want?  Which is it?  You can’t have it both ways.  But we all know that.

To answer this question, we need only look at Jesus’ teachings and how the mainstream reacted to His life.  Were He and His message considered radical and revolutionary by the Jewish establishment of His time?  Was He viewed as a threat, a danger to the profitable inner workings of their religious complex?  How did they view, for example, His cleaning out the corruption in the Temple by overturning the tables of the money changers (Matt. 21:12-13)?  How did they respond when He called them out as hypocrites and encouraged the people to follow God and not man-made traditions (Matt. 23)?  And what did they finally do to silence His voice?  Exactly.

It would appear, from any honest assessment, that the powers-to-be viewed Jesus as a radical and revolutionary and, as such, had Him put to death.  And we are called to follow in His footsteps, to be the light of the world (which exposes darkness, John 3:19) and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).  Remember?

We Follow a Risen Savior (Who Was a Radical)

Consider a brief overview of the radical life and teachings of our Lord.  Let’s begin with some of His radical actions:

•   Eating with Sinners and Tax Collectors – Mark 2
•   Touching and Healing Lepers – Matthew 8
•   Forgiving Sins – Mark 2
•   Challenging the Sabbath Traditions – Mark 2
•   Cleansing the Temple – Matthew 21
•   Teaching and Practicing Humility – Mark 10
•   Welcoming Children – Mark 10
•   Interacting with Samaritans – John 4
•   Affirming the Value of the Poor – Luke 6
•   Healing on the Sabbath – Luke 13
•   Associating with Women – Luke 8
•   Criticizing Religious Hypocrisy – Matthew 23
•   The First Shall Be Last – Matthew 20
•   Washing His Disciples’ Feet – John 13
•   Ministering to Gentiles – Matthew 8 and 15
•   Teaching in Parables – Matthew 13
•   Proclaiming Spirit Over Letter of the Law – Mark 2
•   Challenging Social Norms – Luke 15

And now, let’s look at His revolutionary teachings.  We’ll begin with the Sermon on the Mount.

•   The Definition of Being Blessed – Matthew 5:3-12
•   Higher Standard of Righteousness – Matthew 5:20
•   Deeper Meaning of Adultery – Matthew 5:27-28
•   The Permanence of Marriage – Matthew 5:31-32
•   Turn the Other Cheek – Matthew 5:38-39
•   Give to Everyone Who Asks – Matthew 5:42
•   Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48
•   How to Pray (Kingdom Come) – Matthew 6:9-13
•   Do Not Accumulate Treasures – Matthew 6:19-21
•   You Cannot Serve God and Money – Matthew 6:24
•   Seek First the Kingdom of God – Matthew 6:33
•   Do Not Worry, But Trust God – Matthew 6:25-34
•   Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-2
•   Love Others Like Yourself – Matthew 7:12
•   Wide Path and Narrow Gate – Matthew 7:13-14
•   Words and Fruits – Matthew 7:15-20
•   Saying and Doing – Matthew 7:21-23
•   Build on the Eternal, not Temporal – Matthew 7:24-27

And we’ll throw a few more in for good measure.

•   The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
•    The Prodigal Son – Luke 15:1-32
•    The Rich Man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
•    The Greatest in the Kingdom – Matthew 18:1-4
•    Forgive Seventy Times Seven – Matthew 18:21-22
•    The Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

What Does This Mean for His Church?

If our Lord was considered a radical by the culture in which He lived (because His teachings challenged the mainstream status quo), then should our life not also do the same?  Should we not commit to being just like Jesus— to live a life of radical obedience to Him and counterculture to the morals and customs of our society (John 6:38)?

After all, we are not of this world (Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11), and neither was Jesus—and that should show in every aspect of our lives.  So join with me and accept His life’s total consecration to the Father, which will most definitely be viewed as radical by your friends and family, maybe even your church.

But who cares?  After all, to “live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

The Higher Christian Life

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