Monday, July 1, 2013




(esp. of change or action) Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
Radical is derived from the Latin word radix meaning "root", referring to the need for perpetual re-orientation towards the root truths of Christian discipleship. (Wikipedia)
There is a lot of talk these days about “radical Christianity”.  Sometimes this is interpreted and/or carried out as fanaticism. Some think that it means you must abandon everything you have, forsaking everyone and everything that is comfortable and familiar-and it can include that. My belief is that to follow Christ the way that we are called to follow Him is indeed radical by definition, because the call is to change the fundamental nature of something-in this case, to change the world. To be radical Christians means to return to the roots of our faith. I’m not talking about necessarily returning to the roots of our family’s faith, although I was indeed raised in a Christian home. I am talking about a return to the roots of Christianity as a whole, trying to do what Jesus actually told us to do.
I guess it can be open to interpretation, this whole business of following Jesus, and of course we are all given different gifts and tasks. But I think that the basic ideas of loving one’s neighbor, being in the world but not of it, turning the other cheek, helping the poor, and allowing God to be the judge hold true for anyone who claims Christianity. Where we go with these basic tenets depends on where God sends us and whom He sends us. I have some friends who are selling and giving away most of their possessions and going to live and work in Haiti. To leave it all behind and go take care of some kids in an orphanage –that’s radical. They have faced criticism from people who just don’t understand. No one has to understand. It is a call from God. I have learned over the years that we become utterly miserable when we ignore the call ,no matter what it is. No matter how strange it seems. And we are indeed in good company.
Consider Noah, building a huge boat because water was going to fall from the sky and flood the earth. Do you suppose he got laughed at and mocked much? Consider Abraham, abandoning all that was familiar to go-where? He had no clue, but he went. Moses, after an encounter with God in the form of a burning bush in the desert, went to face the powerful and wicked Pharaoh. He ultimately took on the task of leading several million people out of slavery “to a land flowing with milk and honey”. A Promised Land that he had never seen. Radical? Oh, yes. And the Apostles, standing up to beating and torture, singing while imprisoned and in chains, refusing to back down. Jesus Himself, defying the legalistic leaders of His time to reach out to those who were the most despised and rejected. Jesus, making the ultimate sacrifice for a world that largely refused to acknowledge Him. Radical-and real-love.
Going beyond the Bible, we have heroes throughout history and in our world today. Martin Luther. William Wilberforce. Corrie ten Boom. Mother Teresa. Jim Elliot. Martin Luther King. Billy Graham.And those who may not be famous, but who are willing to give all. Think of the people you know-your parents, perhaps, or grandparents. Teachers. Pastors. Youth leaders. Those who are willing to sacrifice for the good of others, no matter the cost, no matter if anybody even notices or expresses gratitude. To be radical is to understand that it is not about ourselves. To be radical is also to endure being called crazy, sometimes.
It was crazy, some say, to adopt three kids at once, the oldest eleven, the youngest five, all with baggage and problems that we did not fully realize at the time. I have days and times, like today, like these past few weeks, when I ask myself if it was actually crazy. I ask myself if it really mattered. And then I have to ask if we could have done any differently, and the answer is no. It wasn’t as if we had a choice, not really. Not when we knew it was a call from God. We could not ignore it any more than we could ignore the call to be teachers, which is, I suppose, another thing that could be called radical. Anything that is designed to change the world is radical. I ask myself how “sane” it was for my father to give his last ten dollars to a homeless family when he had no job. How “sane” is it to go and live among the poverty-stricken and diseased people of Calcutta? How “rational” is it go to Haiti after an earthquake, or to Oklahoma after a series of devastating tornadoes? Does it make any sense to give your expensive coat, the one your kids gave you for Christmas, to some stranger who is cold, and then keep on handing out food and blankets in your shirtsleeves in thirty-degree weather?  Is there any logic to going into strip clubs and hand out gift bags to the women, gift bags with tags attached that say, “We love you just the way you are” and invite them to church? What if they come in scantily clad, with tattoos and piercings and stuff, and you are the one who encouraged them to come? What will people think?
“What will people think” is probably the worst reason for doing or not doing something. I’m really glad, for my own sake as well as everyone else’s, that Jesus was never motivated by that. I am truly grateful that He did not forsake God’s will and go count out mint leaves with the Pharisees. (Keep nine, give one away, and you are fulfilling the Law. It’s the Magic Formula from God Boxes, Limited.) If my daughter Alyssa chose her friends based solely on what her classmates thought, she would have missed out on some really great relationships with some truly fantastic people. If we only do things based on popular opinion, I doubt we’ll do a whole lot that is worthwhile, in the eternal sense. To put your last five dollars in the church offering plate when your bank account is empty and payday is three days off is a bit nutty, and it’s not necessarily something God always tells us to do, but if He does, we should listen. We have no way of knowing what that homeless man is going to do with the fifty dollar bill that we hand him-but God does. It then becomes a matter between that fellow and God. We have done what we believed God was prompting us to do.
God has not called everyone to do some Grand Big Thing. We aren’t all supposed to go be missionaries to Africa, or start a homeless shelter, or become evangelists. Those are indeed wonderful callings, worthy of notice. But God notices it all. To follow Him, to love and forgive others, to obey Him when He tells us to do something, no matter how odd it seems to others, is “radical” indeed. Every small act can be far-reaching. To use that old cliché, it really is like ripples in a pond. When people ask you why you are doing this-whatever “this” is-if your reason is because God said to, then tell them. You will get some raised eyebrows, some shakes of the head, some laughter and mocking at your foolishness. But you will also get, at least sometimes, “Really? Tell me more.” Those are the times that make it worthwhile.
Be radical. It will change the world.
“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” –Philippians 1:21

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